Smelly problems for Rocklands residents

Irene Julies stands on a step in her backyard, which had flooded with sewage.

For five days, Rocklands residents endured the stench of raw sewage as their toilet drains overflowed into their driveways and yards.

Sewage from five homes in Kitty Hawk Street bubbled up from blocked pipes from Sunday January 29 to Friday February 3.

Irene Julies, called the Plainsman on Thursday February 2, after the City of Cape Town had failed to drain her yard of sewage, which, she said, had soaked her furniture as well as building materials stored in the yard. She had to send her four-year-old granddaughter, whom she looks after, home because there was nowhere for her to play.

“How can my grandchild play in this smell and tiptoe around this faeces?” she said.

She and her husband, Chris, had taken turns calling and visiting the council offices to get help. But they had spent R130 in airtime being put on hold and sent from pillar to post, to no avail.

Mr Julies said the house was at the lowest drainage point and the sewage bubbled up every year. “How can I eat, sleep and breathe in this filth?” he asked. “We can just stay indoors.”

His neighbour, Dennis Philander, 68, said the sewage had been a problem since he had moved into his house in 1980.

“We have this problem every year,” he said. “This is unhealthy, unhygienic and is a serious health hazard.”

An underground sewer pipe is supposed to carry the waste to a nearby treatment plant, but blockages cause it to back up and flood the street and the residents’ homes, and the overflow ends up in the stormwater drain (“Rocklands residents stuck in a messy affair,” Plainsman y February 24).

Last year, Ernest Sonnenberg, the mayoral committee member for utility services at the time, said theft and illegal dumping were to blame for the pipe blockages, but residents dispute that. They blame poor planning by civil engineers.

Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south said rags being flushed into the system were causing the overflow. Most sewer overflows were due to misuse of the system by residents

“These rags caused the local pump station to severely malfunction,” he said.

Anyone who puts anything into a municipal sewer that can block it is breaking the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law.

“Residents are reminded that only human waste and toilet paper should enter the sewerage system,” said Mr Andrews.

The City would help the residents to clean and disinfect the area.

“The only way to prevent the problem from recurring would be for the whole community to refrain from dumping rags, cooking fat, rubble and general litter into the sewerage system,” he said.

Residents can call 086 010 3089 or send an SMS to 31373 to report poor service delivery. To claim compensation, residents have to complete a public liability claim form and submit all supporting documents in writing to the City’s claims section.

Residents can also use the form available on the City’s website. Email them to charlene.harmse@capetown.gov.za, fax to 086 202 9701, or to Chief Claims Administrator: Public Liability Claims, Insurance Section, 3rd Floor, Cape Town Civic Centre, Tower Block, 12 Hertzog Boulevard, Cape Town, 8001.