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George Municipality rolled out a bio-separator toilet system in Informal Settlement

In the photograph above: Mzimkhulu Mabhoza, Buysile Ngemtu from the California Settlement and Ward Councillor Siphelo Manxele, with representatives from Buffalo Tanks, Jürgen Graupe, Co-owner and Manager: Sanitation, Ruben Graupe, Junior Project Manager and Siegfried Graupe Co-owner and Manager: Administration and Design.

George Municipality recently rolled out the first project of an alternative sanitation solution, a bio-separator toilet system in California Informal Settlement, Thembalethu, by Buffalo Tanks.

According to Wendy Mentor: Manager: New Housing at George Municipality, the system contains a tank that is completely submerged underground where the sludge is being treated and it disintegrates from there. There is no way that people can reach the tank. The system was approved by the Water Services Board, which tested the technology. “Our pilot system is going excellent, we’ve had no complaints with the 13 toilets that have been installed,” Mentor said.

Mentor said the George Municipality advertised a tender for the implementation of an alternative sanitation solution in Informal Settlements where the area cannot be connected to the sewer network.  “A pilot project was launched for three months to test the implemented technology.  Buffalo Tanks was awarded the contract for the implementation over three years,” Mentor said.

Mentor said the California Informal Settlement was chosen as a pilot as the Councillor of Ward 21 discussed the need and shortage of toilets in this settlement. There is a total of 203 structures in the settlement and only had 3 flush toilets and one chemical toilet, before the installation of the 13 alternative sanitation solution toilets.

According to Jürgen Graupe, co-owner of Buffalo Tanks, that installed the system, they only used people living in the area for labour and workers were paid per toilet. Buffalo Tanks did the coupling of the toilets. The toilets are anchored securely, and the raw materials used for the toilets are also manufactured in George. Graupe said the material of the toilet is also UV resistant, so the sun cannot damage it. It is built so that no pipes or features can be vandalised.

Buffalo Tanks were also awarded a month-to-month contract to service the toilet system. Graupe said the servicing involves only the adding of enzymes and bacteria into the system to assist the biological process and to make sure everything is clean and neat and working properly. As the project grows and more toilets are installed, the company trains and pays local people to do the maintenance.

Mentor said people were a desperate need of additional toilets as the national norm is 1 toilet for 5 structures.

According to Lauren Waring, Director of Planning, Human Settlements and Development at George, this project aims to replace the use of chemical toilets (funding permitting) over the next three years with the new alternative sanitation technology as it is a fully flush unit.

After the award of the contract, a funding request was submitted to the Department of Infrastructure for the roll-out to Informal Settlements where we cannot connect to the sewer system.

Ward Councillor of Ward 21, Cllr Siphelo Manxele, thanked the Municipality for this excellent project. He said he is looking forward to seeing more of these projects in his ward and the rest of Thembalethu.

The end-users in the settlement are happy with this new technology and indicated that their dignity has been restored and that it is an upgrade from the chemical toilets and much more hygienic.