Residents fed-up with sewage spills

PHIRI CAWE

The Mngxekeza family in Green Point, Khayelitsha, has had to endure seeing raw sewage spilling into their home for almost six years now. The prime source of this is not known but the local councillor blames the area’s old sewerage system.

Residents of Hlabinkomo, Icola and Fubesi streets, say they are tired of the raw sewage spilling into their homes. Grass has even grown in Fubesi Street. The three streets are now closed to traffic.

Nolubabalo Mngxekeza said the situation had been the same since 2010. She said the family had even contemplated selling their house.

Ms Mngxekeza said she has seen instances where children’s skin were badly affected as a result of the raw sewage spill. She said eczema is a problem skin condition for most children of the area.

The two main garages of their house is unusable. She said walking around the yard is impossible because there is sewage water all over.

“We had to stop using the main gate and open another side for the cars to come in. We thought it would be something we had to endure for a short time, but we were wrong,” she said.

She said the main problem currently is her health and that of her family.

Her husband Luzuko said for more than five years they have had to endure the misery. He said he had to use more iron to cement his house because water was seeping up and damaging the house.

“It is a life that no one would ever want to experience.

“It has been like this for years and no one is helping. We had reported the matter so many times but it seems we are not winning,” he said.

“The sewage has been flowing all over here and the drains are always blocked. It is difficult to describe how we live here. The last five years have been difficult. By the look of things we are going for another tough few years ahead.

“You ask yourself would it have been like this had it been somewhere in the affluent areas? I guess not. This has been a continuing problem. It makes it difficult to even eat,” Mr Mngxekeza said.

He said it was better when there was a company that was cleaning the streets in the area but they are no longer employed. He said no matter how much the municipality cleaned up, it remained the same.

Mr Mngxekeza said everyone is exposed to diseases. “We are highly exposed to all sorts of diseases. I am sure no one would buy my house seeing that we are living like this. This is hell,” he added.

Ward 93 councillor Amos Komeni said the sub-council is aware of the issue and that it did everything in its power to rectify the situation.

He said he has made numerous attempts to get the stormwater department to sort out the problem but this has not yielded any results.

He said he believes the underground sewerage pipes had reached the end of their lifespan and were in need of upgrading. “The problem here is infrastructural. We have visited the place on many occasions but nothing has been done. It was better when there was a company cleaning here. We will do our utmost to try to fight for the people to be helped,” he said.

But the City of Cape Town said the system is not old as stated by Mr Komeni.

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It said the problem is due to sedimentation and sand depositing or the build-up of sand in the canal and wetland from higher lying areas.

However, Mr Komeni lashed out at the City, saying some people are treated different to others. He said had this been elsewhere in the affluent suburbs, the City would have long responded.

“This shows you that we have two cities in one city. Everyone is very aware of this problem. It has existed for too long,” he said.

He said he noticed that even catch pits have long stopped working.

The City said it recently conducted a site visit and it appeared that the standing and stagnating water in Icosa Street and at the intersection of Fubesi and Ilanda streets adjacent to the wetlands in Green Point was caused by water flowing back from the nearby wetlands into the road areas and not because of a blocked sewer.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport for the City, said it is clear that there is a natural open channel of sorts running along the length of the Green Point area and into the wetland further south.

“This ‘channel’ and the headwall outlets from Green Point are overgrown with aquatic weeds (hyacinth) preventing stormwater run-off from the Green Point area from following into the wetland.

“Cleaning this system (and the stormwater system in Green Point itself) should assist with clearing the standing water in the area during minor storms which happen once every two to five years, although the area is still expected to flood during major storms once every 10 years or so,” he said.

Mr Herron said the City’s transport authority is currently fast-tracking the process of acquiring the services of a machine to remove sand and silt that has built up in the canal and wetland.

He said the system will not be upgraded.

“No, because the system functions properly when the wetland and canal are clean from aquatic weeds, sand and silt. As stated, the transport authority is fast-tracking the process of acquiring a machine to clear the canal and wetland of aquatic weeds, sand and silt.

“In addition, it is important to mention that the stormwater system is not designed to handle additional effluent. Effluent is not supposed to be deposited into the City’s stormwater system as the stormwater flows to the wetlands or rivers and eventually to sea contaminating the areas and affecting our water quality,” he said.

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