Effluent pumped into waterways poses ‘real danger’ to health, warns Dr Jo Barnes, dubbed the Erin Brockovich of South Africa.
In between worrying about Eskom, junk status and David Mabuza, spare a thought for just one more thing: the state of the country’s rivers. In a word, it’s dire. South Africa’s rivers are being polluted on a massive scale, with billions of litres of sewage discharged into the rivers every day. This is largely due to the fact that close to 80% of the 825 municipal sewerage treatment works are dysfunctional and have been for a long time.
One person who’s been trying to do something about this for years is Dr Jo Barnes, an award-winning researcher into water pollution, sanitation and water-related diseases. For more than 20 years, she has been trying to get municipal and other authorities to take note of the growing crisis affecting our rivers and the potential public health risk this poses. But the former senior lecturer in Community Health at Stellenbosch University – now retired but still working as a water consultant – has had little luck and, through the years, has even faced active measures to shut her up.