A pilot project run in the Langrug informal settlement near Franschhoek could offer solutions to water pollution in Imizamo Yethu.
At a meeting of the Hout Bay Rivers Catchment Forum (HBRCF), at the Hout Bay library last week, Jonny Harris, of Isidima Design & Development, explained the finer points of the Genius of Space Project that has been running in Langrug to great effect.
The project is a collaboration between the provincial government, the Stellenbosch municipality, Stellenbosch University and other stakeholders. It looks at how to treat and separate polluted water flows in the area, and it is particularly relevant to Imizamo Yethu, as the Hout Bay settlement is similar in density and gradient to Langrug.
Imizamo Yethu has a problem with sewage flowing into the stormwater system, resulting in high levels of pollution near the Victoria Road bridge.
The meeting on Tuesday August 22 explored the feasibility of using organisms to purge pollutants from the Disa River environment, a process known as bioremediation
Mr Harris said the pilot project had involved 115 homes in the Langrug settlement and its aims had been twofold: to relieve water stress on the area and restore dignity to the Langrug community by effectively disposing of solid waste and managing grey water .
Mr Harris said he had found high levels of E coli in the water and a significant presence of chemicals.
The team decided to build on temporary measures already used by Langrug residents. “People were using tin cans and pipes to redirect the water away from their homes. The only problem with that was that the water was then coming out alongside their neighbours’ homes. However, we could see that with improvements this system could work, and so we looked to build on that,” he said.
Collection points were then established at five-house intervals, and infrastructure snaked around the bends between the shacks. The team also reduced volumes of grey water going into the system by laying locally produced paving blocks in the streets to improve surface drainage.
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“If you go to Langrug now, you will see that they no longer have polluted surface water problems,” said Mr Harris.
The project’s success had been built on involving the community in all decisions”Strong relationships were built with the community, and today the Genius of Space project is maintained by the community.”
The pilot project had cost R1.5 million, “comparable if not cheaper than a tarred system”, but the important long-term result was that water maintenance was now in the hands of the Langrug community.
Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay representative and structural engineer Willie van Wyk said he and fellow Friends member, Tim Biggs, had been considering how to set up a bioretention pond (to remove sediment and contaminants from stormwater run-off) near the Hout Bay Sports Complex emergency displacement area (EDA) to reduce pollutants getting into the Hout Bay River.
The two also want to build a trap along the concrete channel running along Victoria Road.