The contents of two Buffalo City Metro meetings have raised a red flag over perilous levels of toxic gases inside the West Bank sewage treatment plant which pose a hazard for staff.
The minutes and agenda were from the April and May corporate services portfolio committee meetings.
The agenda for the May meeting, which was reportedly postponed, referred to safety inspections revealing “dangerous levels of toxic gases to be present inside the effluent flows through the plant”.
It went on to say that management had been advised to not allow staff into the plant unless they are protected from the hazards by protective gear.
The document stated that safety inspections had revealed “a shocking state of deterioration of the structure due to corrosion” and called for an urgent maintenance intervention to “rescue and remedy” the situation.
Similar warnings were raised at the April meeting which made reference to the appointment of a consultant to fix the facility’s roof and consultants from Cape Town who were looking for ways to address maintenance issues.
Responding to questions yesterday, BCM spokesman Sibusiso Cindi confirmed orders had been placed with contractors to repair the facility and consultants were busy with designs.
Asked about the toxic gas levels, Cindi said gases were “monitored” and staff issued with personal protective equipment.
He said “further maintenance” would be undertaken in the 2016/17 financial year.
When the Daily Dispatch team visited the plant yesterday, the neglected exterior gave the impression the plant had been abandoned.
Large sheets of corrugated iron were peeling off the roof, a high pile of discarded concrete pipes lay in a heap, rusted fencing and other debris littered the parking lot.
There was one staff member on duty in the foul-smelling facility, who said he sometimes got sick due to the “dangerous bad smell”.
Visible through a glass panel, only one of three separators was churning, separating solid matter from liquid.
When the door to the heart of the plant was opened, an odour of sewage mixed with an ammonia-like reek was overwhelming.
Much of the ceiling in the unkempt kitchen had collapsed and a deeply rusted two-plate stove rested on a rickety counter.
Another room containing what appeared to be a working panel, complete with flashing lights, was crammed with hundreds of dusty water bottles still in unopened plastic covered cartons, old lockers, broken packaging and other rubbish.
The PR councillor for Ward 46 which includes West Bank, the DA’s Sue Bentley, said she wanted to know how the plant could have been allowed to reach this state.
“Why was it not maintained to the point where it is dangerous for employees to work there,” she asked.