LEKWA LOCAL MUNICIPALITY FINED FOR CONTRAVENTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION
Press Release from the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa
The Standerton Regional Court has imposed a fine of R70 million on Lekwa Municipality for contravention of environmental legislation.
This is after the municipality was found guilty on 7 counts relating to: failure to comply with conditions stipulated in the waste management license, prohibition of unauthorised disposal of waste, failure to comply with a compliance notice, unlawful water use, causing significant pollution to the environment, unlawful, negligent disposition and distribution of raw untreated sewer and failure to comply with directives issued.
This occurred from 2017 to 2022 when the Municipality distributed and disposed of contaminated water in Standerton which resulted in failure to comply with their license, the Municipality also negligently disposed of contaminated waste which caused pollution to the environment.
The Municipality also impeded the flow of contaminated water within the public water channels and roads, they disposed of and distributed affluent raw and untreated sewer into the following municipal sub-stations: Stein pump station, Rooikoppen pump station, Johan street pump station, Muller pump station, and Talijaard pump station. Further to that the Municipality also failed to comply with Directives and compliance notices which had been issued to it.
The state and municipality entered into a plea agreement. Advocate Thobeka Phungula addressed the court that the offences were serious and affected the rights of citizens as enshrined in Section 24 of the constitution, the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected. That the offence had a detrimental effect on the ecological systems and the use of natural resources.
The state also argued that the Municipality must ensure service to their community and by committing these offences, the Municipality had failed its community and failed to comply with legislation relating to the protection of the environment such as the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and the National Environmental Management Waste Act 59 of 2008.
Advocate Phungula further argued that the failure to comply with notices caused the situation to deteriorate and led to essential equipment being damaged and the damage being extended into the Vaal Dam.
In mitigation, the defence argued:
That the accused takes responsibility for his actions and is remorseful.
That the accused has started to put in place measures to remedy the situation.
That the accused will ensure compliance with the law and all Directives and notices issued in the future.
That the Municipality will ensure that urgent repairs are done to faulty equipment and pump stations.
The court took into consideration all factors and sentenced Lekwa Local Municipality to a fine of R70 million.
The court ordered that the fine is to be used to effect urgent and necessary repairs of all affected equipment.
It further ordered that proof of expenditure and repairs must be submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development Land and Environmental Affairs.
In addition, R500 000 must be paid to the Department of water services and the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development Land and Environmental Affairs (DARDLEA) for liabilities incurred during the investigation process.
The National Prosecuting Authority is pleased with the conviction and sentence.
NPA Regional Spokesperson