Breeding flamingos in the kak - literally
Effluent from poorly maintained treatment plants in Kimberley is fouling up a crucial breeding ground
A dysfunctional sewerage treatment network in Kimberley could put the iconic Lesser Flamingo on its last legs, an advocacy group has warned.
Speaking to Times Select during Water Week, Tania Anderson of Save The Flamingo said that the Kimberley-based Sol Plaatje Municipality’s inability to maintain a crucial water treatment network meant that as many as 25 megalitres of untreated effluent were making their way into the Kamfers Dam, one of only four flamingo breeding grounds in Africa and the only one in South Africa.
The organisation has put the blame squarely on the municipality's shoulders, saying the council's failure to maintain the at least seven pump stations – including Gogga, the biggest – that feed the main Homevale Wastewater Treatment Plant meant that only 15 megalitres of sewage a day were being treated. The daily capacity is 45 megalitres.“Most of them are leaking or not functioning properly,” she said. “So more than half of the sewage that should be treated is not reaching the plant, but leaking into the veld and other natural pans, with serious environmental degradation as a result – for the past three years.”
BirdLife SA CEO Mark Anderson was also worried about the situation, and said a full investigation was required to find out exactly what was going wrong.
“Is it corruption, financial management, no supervision, lack of skills?” he asked.Kamfers Dam is of critical importance to the wellbeing of the flamingos – and conditions have to be just right for the hatchlings to thrive. According to BirdLife, they bred there in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and then only again this year. There were as many as 20,000 breeding pairs across all four years.
“One does not want sterile water, nor raw sewage. Treated sewage is good as it is nutrient-enriched and provides the nutrients which promote the growth of the blue-green algae on which the Lesser Flamingo feed,” Anderson said.
Sol Plaatje spokesman Sello Matsie confirmed there was an “in-flow challenge” at Homevale, and that Gogga treated just above a quarter of the sewage from a major township.“We’ve gone out on tender to refurbish Gogga pump station. Between Gogga and Homevale there’s a pipeline. That pipeline has submerged. That is the problem as to why we’ve got less capacity [at Homevale]. Previously, we’ve fixed it here and there, but we’re going out to tender to replace it.”
But Matsie insisted the effluent was not making its way into Kamfers Dam.
“The truth is, next to Gogga is where the untreated effluent goes to, and it has been reported to the sanitation department. But the distance [to Kamfers] is very far, I can put it at about 15km away. It happens [that it leaks] but it’s not going to Kamfers,” he said.