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R1.4bn upgrade project kicks off at Paarl Wastewater Treatment Works 

Drakenstein Municipality’s new R1.4bn Budget Facility for Infrastructure (BFI) project will help the Municipality to ensure the suitable treatment of wastewater which will assist in preserving the Berg River, a vital source of life in the area. It will also enable the Municipality to, at a later stage, promote green energy through biogas energy generation at its Paarl Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW).

“The BFI project aims to address the refurbishment of aging and dilapidated infrastructure, as well as capacity upgrades to treatment streams to meet current and future demands,” said André Kowalewski, Manager: Water and Wastewater Services at Drakenstein Municipality. He was speaking at the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Paarl WWTW’s upgrade and refurbishment, held on Wednesday (25 October 2023) at the plant in Drommedaris Street, Paarl.

National Treasury awarded Drakenstein Municipality the BFI grant of R1.4 billion late last year for wastewater and sanitation upgrades and rehabilitation in the Paarl/Wellington area. The upgrade and refurbishment of the Paarl WWTW form part of the first phase of the project which will span over a period of three financial years.

At the ceremony, Kowalewski emphasised the need for sustainable water and sanitation infrastructure development to meet the growing demand in the area. In September 2023 alone, Drakenstein Municipality granted 136 building plan approvals to the value of approximately R121.5 million. Of these approved building plans, 87.5% consist of new residential buildings, as well as additions and alterations to existing buildings.

 The scope of work during the BFI project’s first phase includes:

Demolishing unused infrastructure;

Constructing a new raw sewage lifting station and inlet works;

Establishing a new primary sludge screening and pumpstation;

Adding three primary settling tanks;

Refurbishing existing primary settling tanks;

Erecting a new administrative building;

Upgrading the disinfection area, electrical network, and control and instrumentation;

Enhancing general civil works such as roads, stormwater and fencing; and

Cleaning maturation ponds.

Unlocking future developments

Kowalewski said the entire project was a direct enabler for future development, which would trigger economic and socio-economic benefits for the Municipality’s most vulnerable communities. The other phase, where construction work has already commenced, includes the construction of the Southern Paarl Bulk Sewer which ensure sustainability and resilience. 

Treasury awards these grants to selected municipalities to fund large and strategic interventions. Projects should have a minimum total cost of R1 billion and should have substantial long-term impacts on economic growth, social equity and employment creation. (See Treasury’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement for more information.)

“Today is the day we have been waiting for. Our Minister and Deputy Minister are very excited about the work that will be done by Drakenstein Municipality. When this project is completed, it is going to have so many benefits. The water security will be improved in this Municipality and the water quality will be excellent,” Ntombizanele Bila-Mupariwa, Provincial Head of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), said at the groundbreaking event.

Residents across Drakenstein will benefit from this R1.4bn grant as it will ensure increased bulk sewer capacity to unlock future developments, which include social and private residential housing, commercial hubs, and industrial opportunities. The benefits are: 

  • Improved sewage treatment processes, as well as reduced energy demand, and operation and maintenance costs at the Paarl WWTW;
  • Improved quality of effluent released into the Berg River – vital for the livelihood of surrounding communities (domestic and agricultural, and especially growers of export fruit and produce);
  • Ensured compliance with prescribed effluent quality standards;
  • Significant economic and socio-economic benefits (i.e. job opportunities, as well as attracting public and private sector investment, ensuring the growth of the local economy);
  • An increased tax base and revenue generation; and
  • Sustainable opportunities such as green energy (i.e. transforming sludge into biogas) which will reduce the high electricity demand at the Paarl WWTW.

The BFI project is necessary, considering that several integrated residential and commercial developments with noticeable economic and socio-economic benefits are planned, specifically to the south of Paarl, which would put added pressure on existing systems. With the BFI project the wastewater and sludge treatment capacity for Paarl, Wellington and surrounds will increase and help to accommodate the current demands and to cater for future demands and developments.

One of only 22 SA municipalities to receive Green Drop status

Drakenstein Municipality recently became one of only 22 wastewater systems out of 850 in South Africa and one of only three Western Cape municipalities to receive Green Drop status from the DWS. 

The Green Drop certification is an incentive-based regulation programme of the DWS. Municipalities receive Green Drop status when they achieve scores of 90% or higher, against stringent Green Drop assessment requirements. The Municipality’s Hermon Wastewater Treatment System scored an impressive 93%. 

At the event, Councillor Theuns Bester, Mayoral Committee Member for Engineering Services at the Municipality, thanked the DWS for playing such an instrumental role in providing the funding for these upgrades. “We are not only thankful for the funding and the upgrades, but we are excited about the future developments and revenue this project brings,” he said. 

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