DESPITE a court bid, attempts to obtain water test results disclosing the extent of the pollution in the Swartkops River have been unsuccessful.
Zwartkops Conservancy, an organisation dedicated to conserving and rehabilitating the fauna and flora in the Swartkops River estuary, has been trying through the high court to have the results made public using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).
Zwartkops Conservancy chairman Mike Spearpoint said the court had ordered that by Thursday the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality respond by submitting documents detailing the extent of the river’s pollution.
“If they do not respond, we will prepare papers to go to the high court. Since the case was heard on April 14 they have only submitted 15% of the documents we have asked for. These documents contain nothing regarding the level of pollution in the river,” he said.
Spearpoint said he believed that the municipality did not want to disclose the extent of the problem because it did not want to allocate funds to reverse the pollution.
“The biggest concern is that the pollution problem is getting worse. The fact is this information should be in the public domain,” he said.
Brenda Matthee, a DA councillor on the public health committee, said earlier this year the municipality had submitted a report to the Department of Water Affairs which stated that it would cost about R1.5-billion to rectify the river pollution problem.
“They also asked the Department of Water Affairs for assistance because the municipality does not have this kind of money,” she said.
Matthee said she had also asked municipal public health directorate head Dr Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni for the water test results for the last six months on two occasions, but without success.
“At the last meeting she said that she would give the results at the next meeting, which will take place on October 23. So I am waiting to see what happens. We need the results because without them we do not know the extent of the problem,” Matthee said.
She said the pollution of the river was ongoing and nothing was being done to curb the problem. Matthee said at this point it seemed highly unlikely that the next Spar Redhouse River Mile, the oldest open-water swimming event in Africa, would be hosted on the river early next year.
For the last three years the event was hosted on the nearby Sundays River, due to the high e-coli count of the Swartkops River. This is as a result of sewage which ends up in the river, which flows from the Motherwell and Markman canals.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said the municipality’s public health directorate, in conjunction with the Department of Water Affairs, was conducting ongoing monitoring and assessment investigations in relation to the health and water quality of the river.
“Our legal department are compiling the required documentation and working with the Zwartkops Conservancy to provide the necessary documentation,” Baron said.
He said every citizen or organisation had the right to apply for information under PAIA, if they chose to do so.
“We also have the responsibility to ensure that internal information is handled in a responsible manner and that those people who get the information have the ability to interpret technical information correctly,” he said.