‘Sewers are not dirt bins’

Avron Plaatjies, councillor for Ward 76, reports a sewage overspill in Tania Crescent, The Farm.

Wolfgat Sub-council wants the City of Cape Town electricity, roads and sewer departments to report on their capital investment of infrastructure in Mitchell’s Plain.

Chairman Solomon Philander said he would like to see councillors fighting for capital investment in “our infrastructure” within Mitchell’s Plain. He wants each line department to table a three or five-year plan, including capital investment projects which they could monitor and ensure is done.

He was speaking during the tabling of the 20 complaint types for Sub-council 12, when ageing sewer infrastructure was raised, at their monthly meeting in Lentegeur on Thursday August 17.

According to this report, during July a “very small percentage of customer interactions” resulted in service requests.

Sewer-related, electricity and water and sanitation meter queries were logged but not closed.

Tafelsig councillors Washiela Harris, Norman Adonis and Mboniswa Chitha, councillor for Ward 35, said they had logged complaints of sewage overspills but nothing was done. Ms Harris said the spills were causing big holes.

Mr Adonis said he was waking up to threatening messages and complaints which he logged on August 1 but which had still not been addressed.

Mr Chitha said every other street in his ward was flooded.

Sub-council manager Johnson Fetu said there must be a plan for the unblocking of sewer pipes so that it would need to be done repeatedly.

“I want to check what is the long-term plan regarding the sewer pipes. There is ageing infrastructure. Collapsed pipes is a reflection of ageing infrastructure. There are overflows and no proper plans. There is a lack of coordination,” he said.

Avron Plaatjies, councillor for Ward 76, thanked officials for the department’s service, whom he called more than the person he lived with.

He told the Plainsman, when reporting on an overspill in Tania Crescent, The Farm, after the meeting, that he was knee deep in sewage – and filing reports daily.

He also confirmed with the official that there was a collapsed sewer pipe underground on the corner of AZ Berman and Highlands drives. Metres away, near Bottlebrush Street, across from the Metro South Education District (MSED) office, sewage was bubbling out.

Mayoral committee member for water and sanitation Zahid Badroodien said as the emergency contractor’s traffic accommodation plan was approved they would set up an over-pumping system.

He said the two “very busy roads” made it difficult for them to put an end to the overflows.

“We were only able to set up the over-pumping system on Friday (August 18) after several attempts which put an end to the overflows,” he said.

The department also tried to do a CCTV inspection of the affected pipeline over the weekend but stopped efforts at 8pm on Saturday due to the amount of white sand that had entered the pipeline through the damaged section.

Mr Badroodien said that a contractor installing cables at the intersection accidentally drilled through the sewer pipeline which caused the overflow.

He explained that the customer charter prescribed a 24-hour response time for service requests.

“It does not however mean that the matter can be resolved within the 24-hour period,” he said.

He said that by far the greatest cause of overflows in this area were because the sewer system was being used incorrectly.

“Residents can help us reduce sewer overflows. This can be done by not using toilets, kitchen sinks and sewer drains like dirt bins. Let’s be mindful of what we are flushing down our toilets, pouring down our sinks and entering into sewer drains,” he said.

The City commonly sees residents direct stormwater run-off from their homes into the sewer system as well as using the sewer to get rid of unwanted waste, including rags, towels, sanitary products, wet-wipes, ear-buds, sand, builders rubble, food, oils and grease.

“While sewer infrastructure failure and malfunction does occur, the percentage of overflows caused by this is extremely low,” said Mr Badroodien. “Sewer systems are designed to only convey human waste, grey water and toilet paper. Any other solid substances will eventually cause blockages and overflows. The sewer system should only be used in the way it was designed.”

Mr Badroodien said the limited number of collapses experienced in Mitchell’s Plan indicate that the pipes were still in reasonable condition and performing well.

He said the available capacity of the sewer and water system was tested through the City’s Master planning modelling system to see whether a proposed development could be accommodated by the existing water and sewer networks.

“If the modelling indicates that there is insufficient capacity then the proposal is rejected. This is a standard procedure applied to all development proposals to ensure that population growth and development do not exceed service capacity,” said Mr Badroodien.

Residents need to report water and sanitation problems or service requests such as sewer blockages or overflows, vandalism damage and missing drain covers, burst pipes, leaks and water wastage via WhatsApp on 060 018 1505; online www.capetown.gov.za/servicerequests; email water@capetown.gov.za; SMS 31373 (maximum 160 characters. Standard rates apply); call 0860 103 089; or visit a City walk-in centre (see www.capetown.gov.za/facilities to find the one closest to you)