Ballots Bay/Meulen River Sewage Spill

George Municipality herewith confirms that a spill has occurred on the Meulen River located on the outskirts of George,  following a blockage on a sewerage mainline and emergency procedures have been initiated.

It was subsequently determined that the Meulen River (Ballots Bay) incident constitutes an Alert Level 2 response and the Civil Engineering Services directorate can, therefore, report that the incident has been contained and the required repairs will be completed by close of business on 14 February 2020. Any further decision making with regard to the adjacent beaches possibly affected will be taken by the Garden Route District Municipality who follow their own protocols and testing of the water before declaring it safe for swimming.

Sewage spillages are not uncommon occurrences and municipalities, who are also Water Services Authorities are required to plan for such incidents accordingly. The George Wastewater Risk Abatement Plan (W2RAP) is an approach and methodology developed to provide a cost-effective and protective means of consistently assuring acceptable and safe wastewater treatment, through practical risk management, based on system assessments and effective operational monitoring and control. The primary objectives of the W2RAP are firstly; to prevent contamination during transport of wastewater, storage, and disposal of sludge and secondly; to reduce or remove contamination through the treatment processes.

In this instance, a sewage spillage was reported late afternoon on 12 February 2020 and according to the W2RAP, the municipality activated the wastewater management incident protocol (W2IMP) that requires the Civil Engineering Services directorate to determine the alert level of the incident as follow:

Alert level 1: No significant risk to health and the incident can be contained or controlled. Routine problems including minor disruptions to the wastewater system and single sample non-compliances.

Alert level 2: Potential risk to public health and/or environment. Minor emergencies, requiring additional sampling, process optimisation and reporting/communication of the problem. The root cause is identifiable but cannot be immediately contained and will last for approximately 24 hours. Management, Council and the Regulating Authority are notified. Emergency procedures have been initiated.

Alert level 3: The impact of the incident is severe, it is a major emergency requiring significant interventions to minimize public health risk (Engagement of a designated Emergency Management Team). The root cause is not easily identifiable or easily contained or controlled. The impact of the incident has significant consequences and will last longer than 24 hours. Emergency procedures have been initiated.

The W2RAP is primarily to mitigate potential risks and is a valuable primary risk management tool to enhance municipal wastewater service delivery. It encompasses all steps in the wastewater value chain, from production to discharge or reuse in a catchment. It focuses on public health and natural resource protection and addresses the most eminent hazards, risks, and controls that may apply along the value chain.

The table below shows the anticipated extent, impact, risks and actions to be taken in the event of a Level 2 alert. The W2RAP is part of the municipality’s Water Services Development Plan (WSDP), a public document available to the public.

The Civil Engineering Services directorate encourages members of the public to report any sewage spillages as soon as possible due to the extent of the network in excess of 600km that their limited staff cannot monitor on a 24/7/365 basis.  George Municipality would like to encourage members of the public to report such incidents or suspected incidents directly to the Civil Engineering Customer Services on 044 8029266 during work hours (07h45 – 16h30) and 044 801 6300 after hours. Alternatively, report via the George Municipal App which can be downloaded via link  https://george.comunity.me/d/george/

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