River spared raw sewage pumping … for now

2013-11-26 00:00

A DECISION to pump raw sewage into the uMhlathuzana River in the south of Durban, has been temporarily stalled.

While the city yesterday tried to assure residents that there was no reason for panic, environmental activists and residents said even a drop of human waste in the river is unacceptable. The effluent will eventually run into Durban harbour.

While eThekwini’s water and sanitation unit proposed to pump the sewage into the river to allow them to do maintenance at the pump station and prevent blockages, the city spokesperson said the city was not aware of the plan. It is only now, when it is becoming a contentious issue, that it is being referred to them for comment, he said.

City senior officials involved in planning yesterday said residents should not panic, and that everything is still in the planning stage. “We have not reached an agreement on this, but we are in the process. But we will be trying to minimise the amount of waste which will overflow into the river,” he said.

Regional Department of Water Affairs and Forestry director Jay Reddy also confirmed that at this stage the city would not be pumping any sewage into the river, “although it’s a normal procedure for maintenance”.

The maintenance will be done at the inlet pump station at the uMhlatuzana waste waterworks treatment centre in Queensburgh.

But people living near the river demand that the city should use other alternatives, like using trucks to transport it.

On top of the extreme health hazard to humans, there are also fears for the potential harm to marine life.

Yesterday, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance spokesperson Desmond D’Sa said this action would seriously compromise the city’s Blue Flag status.

“This would kill off fish, crabs and birds. And independent scientists have concluded that a sewage leak into the uMhlatuzana River before was the main cause of the recent fish kills in Durban harbour,” he said.

D’Sa said the raw sewage will make its way from the treatment centre past the homes of some Chatsworth residents as it flows through Kharwastan, Queensburgh, Hillary, along the Stainbank Nature Reserve, Yellowwood Park, Montclair, Umbilo, Clairwood and Bayhead before entering the sea at Durban harbour.

The city said they will discuss the issue with affected residents.

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