Make right noises

2014-06-30 00:00

A noisy city

We often get complaints about noisy neighbours. The comprehensive response from the municipality to this latest complaint will guide other readers on how to lodge complaints regarding noise pollution.

For months residents living in Bulwer Street have had to deal with loud, late night music from a nearby club.

Completely distressed by the situation are the senior citizens who live in the retirement homes in the area. Sleep patterns are being disturbed resulting in trauma and anxiety for the elderly folk who ask for nothing more than peace and tranquillity.

Residents who complained to Witness Warriors say what makes the situation unbearable is that their windows vibrate and rattle as a result of the loud music from the club. They cannot relax in the peace and comfort of their homes and cannot even watch television because they cannot hear a thing. At least one resident is considering legal action, however others are aware that the municipality has by-laws to deal with noise and they are exploring this option to deal with the problem.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha responded that the environmental health unit will investigate the noise levels from the club and will keep the complainants informed about the progress of their investigation. Mafumbatha said that in terms of noise control, the environmental health sub-unit is responsible for:

• assessing the extent of noise pollution and its effects on human health;

• facilitating noise control measures; and

• measuring ambient sound levels and noise levels.

“Our legal mandate is in terms of the Noise Regulations framed under the Environment Conservation Act, No. 73 of 1989.”

• “Disturbing Noise” means a noise level that exceeds the zone sound level or, if no zone sound level has been designated, a noise level that exceeds the ambient sound level at the same measuring point by seven decibels (dBA) and more.

• “Noise Nuisance” means any sound that disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person.

According to Mafumbatha, on receipt of complaints of this nature an environmental health practitioner will investigate a complaint and serve a compliance notice of the alleged noise nuisance on the party concerned. Complainants are advised of this action and requested to complete affidavits that are submitted to the environmental health sub-unit. If the alleged noise-maker fails to comply with the notice served, a report on the investigation and affidavits from the complainants are forwarded to the municipality’s legal section for consideration of further legal proceedings.

“It is always the preferred option to deal with most matters as noise nuisances, and it is for this reason that affidavit statements are necessary. In certain cases the complaint is investigated as a disturbing noise, and in this case, whilst affidavit statements are still required, noise readings are taken to substantiate that the levels have exceeded the legal levels,” Mafumbatha added.

Satisfied customers

Guru Essop had complained that the entrance into Woodlands had no streetlights for over a month. He said that the municipality had started installing new steel poles for the street lights, but that this work had suddenly stopped. “This is both dangerous to pedestrians and motorists who use this only entrance and exit to Woodlands.

“Our manholes are overflowing with dirt and garbage. When is the municipality going to clean up these manholes? I hope they are not waiting for the rainy season,” Essop wrote.

The municipality responded that they were indeed changing the poles because they were old and no longer corresponded to the new specification for the city’s streetlights.

However, the challenge they faced was that there had been cable theft in the area, hence the work being stalled. Spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha assured residents the area will be bright again as the municipality was working on an alternative way of getting the area lit up. She said they were also working on changing the light poles going up towards Claridge as these had also been vandalised.

By the end of last week Essop wrote saying: “Thumbs up to the electricity department; the streetlights to the entrance of Woodlands are now functioning … Just this morning a truckload of municipal workers were dropped off in front of my house to clean the manholes, so well done to the waste management. It seems we are getting somewhere after all.”

Moon Pillay is another satisfied customer who would like the public to know that there are some public servants who take their jobs seriously. Pillay wrote: “On Saturday, June 7 there was no power at a pensioner’s house in Khan Road. The lamp post that feeds this house was sparking (alarm system, gate motor and bulbs blown). The fault was reported to the call centre … After being given the run around by the call centre and the faults department on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, in desperation I went to the Truro council offices at about 5 pm on Monday.

“The only official available was the Speaker of council, Babu Baijoo. His assistance was superlative; after making a few calls, he gave me his card and advised me to wait for the technicians. They arrived within the hour and located the fault as being in the underground cable and said they would repair it the next day. Kudos need to be given to Cindy Hlabangane, the technician who assured me that repairs would be effected in the morning as they did not have the proper tools and spares on hand. She took full responsibility and was brave enough to leave her cellphone number. As promised the repairs were carried out.”

Unhappy customer

Thieves stole the neutral cable from a Msunduzi sub-station at 39 Willowton Road. Butterflies for Africa have had no power and their calls to the municipal faults section elicited no response, so they contacted Witness Warriors.

Brad Cooper of Butterflies pointed out that far more worrying was that the doors of the sub-station were left wide open, including that of a meter room right next to it. He took Warriors on a tour and it was clear that the meter room had not been locked for sometime; it seemed that it was being used as a toilet and that somebody had taken up residence there. The cable thieves had also used this space — hidden from sight — to strip the cables.

Warriors implored the municipality to do something, pointing out that there were children living on the property above the sub-station. They could wander in there, touch the equipment and have a thousand volts run through them. By Wednesday midday, an e-mail was dashed off to the municipality. A technical report showed that a supervisor had received the complaint that the neutral and earth bar was stolen from the sub-station at approximately 3 pm on Wednesday. He dispatched an electrician and cable jointer to the sub-station at 3.30 pm. “The repairs were complete and the sub-station energised at 7 pm.”

Municipal spokesperson Mafumbatha said that no earlier complaint had been received about the power outage as a result of the stolen cable. She said that as for the sub-station locks, maintenance on the switchgear was done on March 27 as part of the municipality’s routine maintenance, to ensure that the sub-station is properly locked once the maintenance is done. “It is not correct to say that the sub-station was left open for years. Locks on sub-stations are broken by the thieves in advance before the neutral cable is stolen. The room that houses the meter is the responsibility of the landlord/owner of the complex. The owner/landlord is responsible for ensuring the doors are locked and the meter room is kept in a reasonable condition. The locks to the sub-stations have been replaced again.”

Cooper could not believe the response that there had been no other complaints regarding the problem. He said he contacted the municipal electrical fault call centre several times last Thursday and on Tuesday and Wednesday (Ref# 153685 and 154301).

“The private electrical company that came to our premises also reported it under the name Pieter. On Wednesday I called virtually every hour, each time stressing that the sub-station was open and posed a major safety risk that could lead to the loss of life. Eventually the call centre gave me the number of Ms Ndlovu (033 392 5081) who they said may be able to assist me, however there was no answer on this number. They then gave me the number of Welcome Zuma who was more helpful and said he would prioritise a call-out. An electrician did arrive at around 3 pm but said he or someone else would have to come back later. He said he couldn’t give me a time and when I asked for his name and contact number to follow up he said “I don’t give out my name” and got in the car and left (without doing anything to lock the sub-station). Other electricians then came at around 6 pm and finally fixed the problem.

“It should also be noted that a unit from the electricity department did come on Tuesday evening when we were closed. The security guard phoned a staff member who spoke to them and said he would come over to show them the problem. He was told not to. They proceeded to switch off our power and left (the sub-station remained unlocked). It really is unfortunate that they’re asserting that a complaint was not lodged by their call centre, as that is simply not true,” said Cooper.

Perhaps there needs to be a review of call centre complaints and whether they are being properly logged and followed-up.

A leaking city

Witness Warriors has received numerous complaints about leaking pipes in the city, too many to mention individually in this column. All complaints have been forwarded to the municipality. However, there does seem to be good news in this regard. There was a public notice in Thursday’s paper in which Msunduzi has put out a tender for a contractor to carry out leak detection and repair services.

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