MechChem Africa

MechChem Africa visits the South African headquarters of Veolia Water Technologies South Africa in Modderfontein, Gauteng and talks to business development manager, Thabo Mogadima, and general manager for marketing, Chris Braybrooke, about seeing wastewater as a valuable resource.

Durban Water Recycling smallVeolia can trace is history back to 1853 when Napoleon III realised that state-owned infrastructure in France was not being well looked after. By Imperial decree, he formed a water company named Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE), which obtained a concession to supply water to the public in Lyon – and CGE served that city for over a hundred years.

“We have over 160 years of experience in the operation and maintenance of water treatment plants,” says Braybrooke. “We know water,” he adds.

CGE became Vivendi in 1998, it spun-off its remaining water and waste companies into Vivendi Environnement in 2000 and in 2003 became Veolia Environnement.

In South Africa, Veolia Water Technologies South Africa traces its roots back to 1972 as Chematron Products, a privately owned company focused mostly on the food and beverage markets. “Chematron’s largest client was Coca-Cola and it built 80% of the water treatment plants throughout Africa that were used for manufacturing Coke,” Braybrooke recalls.

US Filters acquired Chematron just before being acquired by the Vivendi Group, and the combined local entity became Veolia Water Systems South Africa in 2004. “Then in 2005, Veolia acquired the Paarl-based water treatment division of the Weir Group, Weir Envig, which took the local Veolia entity up to 190 people,” he tells MechChem Africa.

“Following the local acquisition of Namibia’s ASE Holdings, developers of wastewater treatment technology that was well-suited to African conditions, our staff complement went up to 250 people. Today we are a fully integrated company with over 500 people and operations in Modderfontein, Sebenza and Isando (Gauteng), Paarl (Western Cape) and north of our borders we have footprints in Namibia and Botswana,” he continues, adding that, to implement a water treatment solution, “we can select from over 350 different water and wastewater technologies.”

“When it comes to water, we take the circular economy approach. Traditionally the approach has been to treat, use and then dispose – but one of our mottos is ‘resourcing the world’. We do not simply focus on the treatment of water. We see wastewater as a valuable resource, which means we strive to keep that resource in-use for as long as possible to extract the maximum value from it. We do this by recovering and regenerating the water and its contaminants at the end of each cycle,” Braybrooke explains.

“Every form of water is treatable, no matter how contaminated it is, and we can demonstrate this through some of our installed value-adding solutions,” he assures.

At the Modderfontein head office, Veolia offers turnkey design and build services that start on a blank piece of paper. “We like to get involved at the feasibility study stage and, from there, we do the technical studies; design and build pilot plants where required; and then move on to full-scale plant implementation,” he notes.

Veolia’s Engineered Systems Division, located in Sebenza, is a platform for constructing modular water treatment plants that incorporate design and onsite manufacture. Braybrooke continues, “and while most of our work is done for the South African market, these systems are being installed all over Africa.”

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