Waste pumped into vlei

Raw sewage is pumped from blocked drains into the Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve.

Thousands of litres of raw sewage have been pumped from blocked drains in Lakeside directly into Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve.

And this has happened more than once in the past month, according to resident Pierre-Charl du Preez. The incidents have been confirmed by the City of Cape Town and the Zandvlei Protected Areas Advisory Committee.

Mr Du Preez, who has lived in the area for more than seven years, said he had seen this happen before, but, on Friday January 26 – ironically International Wetlands Day, he had had enough.

“There was a blocked drain, and the City came to clear it,” he said. Instead of removing the effluent, he said, the workers had pumped the raw sewage down the road to run off into the Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve.
“Last Sunday, there was a massive spill from Mistral Close, just one road up from Rutter Road, where the most recent incident took place,” he said.

“Tens of thousands of litres of effluent”, he said, had been released into the vlei from a sewer blockage in Schooner Close.
“The council came three times and washed sewage into storm drains that flow directly into the estuary.”
Mr Du Preez contacted the acting Zandvlei manager Mark Arendse who told him he was going to take water samples where the spill had happened.

“There is a basic infrastructure issue that causes re-occurring sewage spills in a residential street,” said Mr Du Preez.

“Instead of fixing the root of the problem, council keeps waiting for it to happen over and over, which endangers the health of humans and pets who live in the neighbourhood by putting them all at increased risk of communicable diseases,” he said.

Mr Du Preez added: “Then, when it comes to cleaning, the council completely illegally flushes the sewage straight into Zandvlei because it is the easiest way of making the problem ‘go away’.

“This can only be damaging to the sensitive ecosystem and dangerous for all. They should, by rights, suck up the sewage, and treat it appropriately.”

Eddie Andrews, Mayco member for area south, blamed residents for the problem.

“The overflow mentioned, like the vast majority of sewer overflows, was caused by residents disposing of inappropriate items/substances into the sewage system,” he said.

Dropping something in a municipal sewer that can cause a blockage is a breach of the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law.

Rags, newspaper, general litter, sanitary pads, cooking oil and wet wipes were often to blame for blockages, said Mr Andrews.

“Residents should also please be sure to report anyone dumping rubble or other waste directly into the manholes.

“Please include any information that could assist us in tracking down the culprit. Unless society as a whole makes a sustained effort to address this problem, overflows will continue,” he said.

That was more important than ever, he said, because the risk of blockages rose when there was less water in the sewers.

Contamination of the stormwater system, he said, was an unfortunate and unavoidable consequence of sewer overflows.

“The City has therefore taken water samples at a number of sites near the overflow site to ascertain whether the sewage spill has progressed to or impacted on the open vlei,” he said.

These results should be available during the course of the week.

Environmental health officials would continue to monitor the area for algal-bloom formations caused by the spill.

“However, it is expected that the dense reeds and abundance of aquatic plants will extract any excess nutrients from the ecosystem. Users of the vlei will be informed of developments through the Zandvlei Protected Areas Advisory Committee (ZPAAC).”

ZPAAC chairwoman Bernelle Verster confirmed two previous sewage spills from Lakeside, and said that each time, those using the vlei had been alerted.

Dalton Gibbs, from the City’s environmental management department, emailed ZPAAC about both spills, telling them an unknown quantity of sewage had gone into the vlei and that he had had a water sample taken and intended to do another.

Mr Gibbs said the spill site was quite some way from the main recreational water body and he expected that with the south easterly wind and lack of rain, the spill would be contained to the west of the railway bridge.

The sewer overflow in Schooner Street Lakeside is suspected to be linked to the maintenance at the bridge on Main Road.

Ms Verster has made a web page explaining the impact of the drought on Zandvlei and this can be read here: http://zpaac.org.za/2018/01/26/zandvlei-in-the-drought/

Ms Verster also said that the members of ZPAAC could help with a community water co-operation plan as the wheels turn towards Day Zero.

Details can be found by visiting : http://greenaudits.co.za/community-
co-operation-in-a-water-crisis-beats-chaos/ Residents can also report sewer overflows to 0860 103 089, or via sms to 31373.