Rivers of filth across KZN

2008-10-09 00:00

The sewage problem in Howick is an absolute disaster and is totally unacceptable. If allowed to continue, it will make Delmas look like a Sunday school picnic.

This dire warning came from Lin Gravelet Blondin KZN pollution control director in the Water Affairs and Forestry Department.

Delmas is a town in Mpumalanga that experienced a typhoid outbreak in September 2005.

More than 287 cases of typhoid were reported; four people died and more than 1 400 had diarrhoea. The cause? The groundwater system had become polluted with sewage.

Gravelet Blondin said it is unacceptable that sewage is flowing freely through people’s gardens and streets where children play.

The springs the Siphumele and Thokoza communities near Howick use are at times immersed in sewage-polluted water and the pump stations are not working properly, resulting in raw sewage regularly being dumped into the surrounding area.

He added that there are problems with sewage pollution right across the country as well as in KZN.

“It is worse in smaller municipalities, who do not have the capacity, finance and expertise to deal with the problem. However, bigger municipalities have also experienced their fair share of problems, despite having a lot more finance and expertise.”

Pietermaritzburg experienced a sewage overflow in Jesmond Road this week. The very vocal residents were quick to register their horror and the municipality’s sanitation division reacted quickly. By yesterday morning, all signs of the mess had been cleared up.

According to officials, the problem was caused by a blocked pipe.

uMngeni Municipality was also hard at work carrying out repairs, following earlier reports on the situation there in The Witness.

According to Gravelet Blondin, towns that have experienced severe sewage problems are Mooi River, Howick, Richmond and Kokstad.

He said the day he visited Mooi River, the situation seemed more under control, but there was definitely evidence of past pollution from pump station failure.

Work on the systems in Kokstad and Richmond is continuing, but a lot more needs to be done.

The department and other role-players will meet next Wednesday to find more long term solutions.

Dave Still, chairman of the Duzi Umgeni Conservancy Trust (DUCT), has said the national Treasury gives municipalities grants equivalent to more than R60 per indigent family per month to help them to maintain sanitation services to the poor. He believes this money needs to be appropriately utilised.

Municipalities can also apply for funding from national government to repair and renew sewerage infrastructure.

“If they cannot find the money to fix these problems, they should take the money from their budget for bonuses for senior management,” he said.

Local municipalities can take a leaf out of Johannesburg’s book, where the water utility has started a R5 billion upgrade of the city’s sanitation and water system.

According to reports, the project is part of the city’s R1 billion annual programme over the next five years to upgrade and rehabilitate infrastructure in the city to reduce both water and sanitation pipe bursts.


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