Resident fed-up with sewage spills

A manhole opposite the Old Apostolic Church in Lower Kinrae Crescent which had been inspected by the City. What appears to be spilled fat or oil can be seen on the tar around the manhole.

A Lower Kinrae Crescent resident says he is fed-up with seeing his property swamped by sewage when it rains.

Rory McShane says he has become an expert in unblocking pipes. When you enter his house, you are greeted by a large, black industrial bucket, a water scoop and a 2-metre-long push rod made of steel and plastic rods to make it flexible.

His house, garden, garage and backyard flat are regularly flooded by sewage, he says, and he is left to unblock the pipes himself by pushing the push-rod down the pipes.

This, he says, has been going on for almost 10 years, and it has become more frequent in recent years with little help from the City of Cape Town.

Mr McShane said a clean-up team from the City’s department of sanitation, who tended to one of his call-outs, a few years back blamed the food outlets at Valyland, saying the pipes were clogged due to irresponsible disposal of fat.

This could not be confirmed by the City of Cape Town.

He said he had spoken to Valyland centre management about the problem and they said a plumber would look at the pipes but not much had changed since.

Mr McShane has two manholes on his property – one in the front garden and one in an alley on the side of his house. There is a third in the main road directly in front of his garage.

When it rains, the manholes fill up and overflow and with the stormwater comes sewage that runs down the alley on the side of his house, down his driveway and enters his garage, the flat in the back garden and an enclosed veranda (stoep) where his washing machine is.

He said he had had to replace his washing machine three times due to water damage, waterproof the garage and flat walls and dig trenches around the manholes to manage the flow of water.

He said faeces could be seen in the water and he had found a few hairnets.

He only let his flat on short-term during the summer.

“I can’t expose any tenant to this.”

He said he reported the problem to the City every time it happened but little had been done to remedy the problem. He provided the Echo with two reference numbers generated by the City’s SMS line from calls he logged on Friday October 30 and Friday November 6. But no one attended to the problem, he said.

“As a ratepayer, I have exhausted all my options. What can I do? I take my push rod, and I have to resolve the problem myself.”

During the Echo’s visit on Thursday November 19, an oily substance could be seen on the grid of the manhole and on the road around the manhole in front of the Old Apostolic Church in Lower Kinrae Crescent.

Mr McShane said “someone” had been there earlier that day and had opened the manhole.

And since the Echo’s enquiry, two City officials visited Mr McShane on Thursday November 26 to evaluate the problem.

The Echo was told by the City that one of the reference numbers supplied by Mr McShane was incorrect and did not link to his address, despite it being generated by the City’s system.

Valyland centre manager, Lynne Vincent, said Mr McShane had first raised the issue with her last month and she had got contractors to investigate.

They had cleaned the pipes and checked for blockages on Tuesday November 3 and removed potential obstructions like roots.

She said Sandi’s Bistro on the side of Lower Kinrae Crescent had a fat trap on the premises and regularly cleaned and cleared it as they were required to do.

“We are happy to continue to investigate the issue with Mr McShane to ensure the issue is dealt with to the extent that our property is involved in,” she said.

Sandi Larkin, owner of Sandi’s Bistro, said she had been in the centre for 11 years. She said she had had a visit from the health inspector about three years ago and recommendations had been made on how to dispose of oil but it had not been an official visit in response to complaints.

She said they cleaned their fat traps four times a week and did not cook greasy foods in large quantities.

Jackie Pretorius, owner of Valyland Flame Grilled, said they have never experienced any drainage problems and had a fat trap.

“We do get visits from the health inspector, which we have always passed,” she said.

Mayoral committee member for water and waste, Xanthea Limberg, said the City’s records did not show an unusually high number of sewer overflows for Mr McShane’s property.

Records showed five blockages over the past six years, she said.

An inspection of the line would be scheduled to confirm there were no structural faults and the City’s water pollution control section would investigate the claim made by Mr McShane about fat disposal.

“If grease traps are not in operation, a notice will be issued to correct this,” she said.

Mayoral committee member for corporate services, Sharon Cottle, said one of Mr McShane’s reference numbers could have been incorrect due to the City’s Contact Centre and Public Emergency Communication Centre using different software to log complaints. She said the systems were not integrated and generated different reference numbers.

She offered no explanation as to why the call with the correct reference number was not attended to.

Dr Liezel Rossouw, from False Bay Hospital, said sewerage systems that were not properly maintained could cause viral, bacterial or parasite-related illnesses.

These diseases, she said could spread by people coming into direct or indirect contact with the sewage. Indirect contact happened when insects or animals carried the bacteria or parasites in or on their bodies. In addition, drinking water could become contaminated by sewage.

She said sewage spills should be reported immediately.

Service requests can be logged through the following channels:

  • Call 0860 103 089 option 2
  • Call 0860 103 089 option 2
  • Call 0860 103 089 option 2
  • Call 0860 103 089 option 2