City’s sewage crisis

2010-06-21 00:00

THE city is sitting on a ticking time bomb as trends indicate that the Darvill wastewater treatment works is operating above its original design capacity.

This was indicated in a report discussed at a recent executive committee (Exco) meeting, which stated that the hydraulic capacity was designed to cater for 75 megalitres per day, not the current 85 megalitres per day.

This means that the additional flow is upsetting the microbial balance in the works and it carries significant risks.

“… during storm events there is sometimes an eightfold increase in the flow rate of effluent entering the works, which forces Umgeni Water staff to redirect inflow into the [storm dam],” states the report.

The filling of the storm dam results in raw sewage or waste flowing into the Msunduzi River, which contributes to high E-coli levels.

This is a direct contravention of the Water Act as there is “a high risk of the structural integrity of the dam being compromised and collapsing altogether” if it remains full over a prolonged period.

According to the report, “when the storm dam is full for an extended period of time, it begins to emit hydrogen sulphide, which causes a stench to the surrounding areas.”

The Witness has received countless complaints from Hayfields, Sobantu and Mountain Rise residents who have phoned in about the stench coming from the works after heavy rains.

If the city fails to do something about the matter, it face serious consequences from the Water Affairs Department as the river’s ecosystems are also under threat.

If the size of the dam stays the same and effluent keeps increasing at the current rate, the storm dam will continue to overflow into the Msunduzi River and the municipality risks being fined every time this happens.

Acting municipal manager Thokozani Maseko said: “The capacity of the Darvill Treatment Works poses a high risk that will suffocate development within the city and slow its economic growth, if the city does not invest in upgrading or the development of a new wastewater treatment works.”

He said consultants were recently appointed to advise the municipality and prepare a plan which should be ready by August.

Maseko said Darvill’s capacity is being put under additional strain by certain industries which are not obeying the law in discharging pollution into the sewers.

He said that if this continues, Darvill risks not complying with quality standards so the enforcement of trade effluent bylaws is necessary.

Democratic Alliance councillor Rodger Ashe said: “This is a very depressing report. It’s a ticking time bomb waiting to happen and it’s been going on for quite some time.”

He said the situation is dangerous because, unlike uncut verges and uncollected refuse that could be easily spotted, problems with the sewer system are hidden from plain sight and can easily result in a catastrophe if not solved in time.

Maseko said CCTV cameras that are about to be installed in the sewer system will help allow more effective monitoring of the sewers.

Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr said a detailed report about making provisions for major infrastructural plans is needed.

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