Streets flow with sewage

Tafelsig streets were flooded with sewage overflow and overnight rain on Friday June 28.

Gang violence in Tafelsig is preventing council workers from immediately clearing sewer blockages, causing sewage overflow and making it impossible for residents to get to work.

Xanthea Limberg, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for water and waste, said gang violence was one of the major factors that prevented the teams from providing services in this area.

“The main causes of the sewer blockages are primarily fats and foreign objects,” she said.

This comes after the City of Cape Town’s water and sanitation department had received 99 service requests for sewer blockages last month.

The list of service requests include reported blockages, which could often be linked to a blocked sewer main.

In last week 36 customer service requests were logged for Tafelsig, including some blocked sewers, duplicates and other complaints linked to other departments.

On Sunday June 30 Cheryl Pedro, in Waboomberg Close, said her sons were still trying to unblock a drain. This comes after she had logged several C3 notifications between Friday June 21 and Friday June 28.

On Thursday June 27 the council came to sort out the stormwater pipes but after 6pm they were still waiting on workers to address the sewerage issue.

“The sewage is now running out into the road and is stinking. They radioed in but still no one has been to our home,” Ms Pedro said.

Overnight rain had the overflow sewage fetching Stanley Pedro, at his door on Friday June 28 at 5.30am.

“I cannot get out of my gate because the rain water and sewage water is in front of my gate. Now I lose my money because I’m late at work (sic),” he texted the Plainsman just before 5.30am.

Dawood Jacobs, from Boskloof Road, raised the recurring problem of sewage overflow during a public meeting with Bongile Ngcani, councillor for Ward 99, on Wednesday June 12 at the Olifantshoek community hall, in Tafelsig.

“I’ve sent several emails to the City to complain about this problem. We have sh*t running down our roads and no one responds,” he said.

Mr Jacobs said they unblock the drain but that stench lingers and seeps into the same crevices where children play. “They need to sanitise the area or else we may have a cholera outbreak on our hands,” he said.

Mr Ngcani said hopefully with the new financial year the issue would be addressed.

He said between Khayelitsha and Tafelsig sewage overflow happened more than twice a week. “The budget is determined by the community leaders and the community. I need a mandate to allocate the necessary funds,” he said.

He said there is a system to unblock the drains but no plans in place to prevent the overflow.

Mr Ngcani said his ward was overpopulated, particularly in Tafelsig, with families living in backyards.

He also said the onus is on residents to keep their area clean and stop dumping.

Ms Limberg said the sewage system, in most cases, was not the problem.

“Although some of the lines were upgraded a few years ago, camera inspections reveal most of these to be in full working condition,” she said.

Where lines are found to be defective these are added to the pipe replacement programme which is funded from the City’s capital budget. “We are not aware of any capacity issues in the system in the Mitchell’s Plain area,” she said.

Ms Limberg said maintenance was regularly carried out. “We would also like to call on residents to please help educate their families and communities about how to prevent blockages and the environmental damage these can cause,” she said.

Ms Limberg said the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law states that no person may discharge substances into a municipal sewer that will interfere with the free flow of sewage.

She said as long as residents continue to abuse the system, blockages or overflows will continue to occur.

The sewer reticulation system is only geared to accept toilet waste, including urine, faeces, and toilet paper; and sink, basin or bath waste, including water, washing liquid and soap.

Common causes of blockages or overflows include rags, nappies, tampons and sanitary pads, wet wipes, condoms, general litter, building materials, and the build-up of cooking fat or oil. When cooking oil or fats, are poured or flushed down your sink and drain, they harden and build up on the inside of the sewer pipes and act like glue, attracting rags, hair, paper and other debris.

The hardness of these blockages can also make them very difficult to clean out.