Modderfontein Outfall Sewer – Non-compliance but maybe hope

Dumping in Illiondale *

Work on the Modderfontein Outfall Sewer in Illiondale ended in mid-2019, but in lower Illiondale near Modderfontein Road rubble, concrete slabs and discarded pipes lay scattered for all to see. As of this week the contractor has returned to remove abandoned concrete pipes. This after months of complaints and representations by residents, Ward Councillor and Edenvale RiverWatch.

But there is more. The work does not comply with many conditions of the Environmental Authorization and Water use Licence for the project. City of Ekurhuleni (CoE) is surely in default on both authorizations because the time to clear the site and make good has long expired.

Photo of the abandoned Modderfontein Outfall Sewer construction site with concrete slabs, rubble and discarded pipes
Abandoned Modderfontein Outfall Sewer construction site in December 2019 with concrete slabs, rubble and discarded pipes
Concrete pipes partly removed seven months after completion the Modderfontein Outfall Sewer - February 2020
Concrete pipes partly removed after seven months – Modderfontein Outfall Sewer 19 February 2020

Licence conditions and accountability *

Environmental Authorization (GAUT:002/08-09/N0584) for the Modderfontein Outfall Sewer Project, issued by Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), gives specific requirements. Among other things, the contractor must clear the site of rubble and waste, return temporary roads to their original state, fix any changes made to the stream channel and rehabilitate path of the pipeline. The rehabilitation must be complete six months after construction work ends, and monitored for the next 18 months.

The National Department of Water and Sanitation issues Water Use Licenses (WUL). The conditions are similar but more specific to the stream channel. The licence for this project (07/A21C/Cl/7712) requires clearing the site and fixing any temporary changes to stream channel within one month of completing the work.

The City of Ekurhuleni, as owner, developer and licence holder, is accountable for compliance. In terms of the authorizations the city appoints an Environmental Control Officer (ECO) for the task. The ECO monitors the work and keeps a permanent written and photographic record of activities and instances of non-compliance. The ECO enforces corrective action on non-compliance and may impose penalties.

The City of Ekurhuleni appears to be in default on both authorizations. And since the project was abandoned without rehabilitation, it seems unlikely there is monitoring and follow up.

The material that follows in this post I sent to CoE on 4 January 2020, pointing out the non-compliance and asking what action Edenvale residents could expect. There is no acknowledgement from CoE after six weeks. But there signs of response and monitoring will continue.

Modderfontein Outfall Sewer Non-compliance *

Concrete pipes lie abandoned in the area between Margaret Road and R25 Modderfontein Road. The progress of the project seen on Google Earth shows they are left over from the construction.

Concrete pipes abandoned by the contractor after completing the Modderfontein Outfall Sewer - December 2019
Concrete pipes abandoned after completing the Modderfontein Outfall Sewer – December 2019

Slabs of concrete from the demolished R25 Pump House were dumped into the channel of the stream. They are largely overgrown with vegetation in the wet season.

Photo of concrete slabs from demolished Illiondale R25 Pump house in stream channel 2019
Concrete slabs from demolished Illiondale R25 Pump house in stream channel 2019

The contractors created a temporary road off the end of Dunbar Rd in upper Illiondale for access to the power line servitude. They filled the channel of the Kelvin Stream with rocks to make a causeway. When they had finished they left the stream in this condition, even though local residents pointed out the issue and asked them to restore it. As a result storm water now spills out of the channel and runs down the temporary road into Dunbar Rd. This places the road and residents at risk of flooding. The WUL specifically forbids both leaving a temporary blockage in place and changing the flow pattern of runoff. To make things more complicated, the causeway lies across the border between Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.

Photo of stream channel filled with rocks to allow vehicle access, not rehabilitated at the end of the Modderfontein Outfall Sewer Project, now diverting floodwaters
Kelvin Stream channel filled with rocks for vehicle access now diverting stormwater
Satellite image of Illiondale showing the temporary road and causeway across Kelvin Stream the contractor abandoned. October 2019
Temporary road and causeway blocking Kelvin Stream left by the Modderfontein Outfall Sewer Project