River of stink in Okahandja

14 October 2019 | Local News

A blocked sewer line has caused havoc in Okahandja's industrial area and adjacent homes.

Businesses last week complained to Namibian Sun of a river of organic wastewater that had made its way through the area. The stench was unbearable, they said, and because they had no idea what the water contains, many took detours to their place of business to avoid driving through the stream.

Town council CEO Martha Mutilifa had not responded to emails and telephonic messages by yesterday.

When Namibian Sun investigated the situation, it appeared that the water emanated from a pump station behind Meatco's Okahandja facility, which has been used for cold storage since 2016.

Rosa Hamukuaja-Thobias, Meatco's manager of corporate affairs, told Namibian Sun that the plant was flooded by the stream on 1 October. This was immediately reported to the municipality.

“This happens when there is a blockage in the main line to the sewerage ponds,” she said, adding that Meatco does not use water for production at all.

The cold-storage plant was flooded twice during that week and production had to cease as a result. These blockages and spills, Hamukuaja-Thobias said, happen when the ABInBev brewery “releases yeast water”.

According to her this has been an ongoing issue and prior to 2016, when Meatco still slaughtered at the Okahandja plant, blockages were more frequent. ABInBev produced its first batch of beer in August 2014.

Hamukuaja-Thobias said answers should be sought from the Okahandja municipality.

“The grey water line was built only for Meatco's purposes. With all the new developments, including the brewery, the line cannot fulfil the purpose for which it was built.”

Maija-Liisa Prinzonsky, the corporate affairs manager at ABIndBev, refused to answer questions last week, saying she would launch her own investigation and then get back to Namibian Sun. Follow-up calls on Friday were not answered.

Hamukuaja-Thobias said Meatco had made repairs to the sewer line, showing its commitment to resolving the issue, “but nothing came from other stakeholders, including the municipality and industries making use of the same line”.

When the Meatco abattoir was still operational, the company maintained the line at its own cost.

An expert on water supply in the central area, who preferred anonymity, said the effect of wastewater management, not only in Okahandja but also Windhoek, could clearly be seen in the last few years when poor rainfall was received.

“The increase in the quality of the water in Swakoppoort Dam could clearly be seen during the good rainy season of 2016/17 when the dam took water from the Sney and Ongeama rivers, both of which lie outside the drainage system of both Windhoek and Okahandja. This shows that storm-water drainage from both towns has a major impact on pollution.”

Moreover, he expressed concern that water from Swakoppoort is pumped to Von Bach Dam, which is “slowly but surely contaminating that dam”.

YANNA SMITH