The massive waste collection backlog in Bloemfontein, the City of Roses, leaves the environment with rodent infestation, threatening public health. This was revealed by an environmental research study by students from the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences at the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT). The study was done in partnership with the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (MMM). About 225 premises were inspected in partnership with the Life Sciences Student Organisation (LISSO) and the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality’s Health Services and Solid Waste division to ensure a successful project which also meets requirements for Work Integrated Learning (WIL) for the CUT students. The students conducted an environmental health survey at the Joe Slovo Square township in Bloemfontein, where they found environmental conditions conducive not only to rodent infestation, but also the proliferation of potentially harmful micro-organisms that can adversely affect public health.Preliminary results revealed that the study site is characterised by environmental conditions conducive to the breeding and survival of rodents, thus having a high possibility of transmitting diseases. This gloomy reality is further propelled by the unavailability of effective waste management facilities and ill-informed personal choices by the residents. Dumping of garbage everywhere may result in the blockage of drainage systems which can exacerbate the impact of flash floods.Kevin Ingram from the Bloemfontein office of the South African Weather Services says Bloemfontein is in the summer rainfall region and thunder storms with the possibility of flash floods must be expected.Dr Robert Hansen, senior lecturer for Environmental Geochemistry in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State (UFS), says inorganic waste contaminates groundwater. With surface water prone to microbial contamination, flash floods can have a positive and negative impact. “The benefit of having more water during flash floods is that the water dilutes the pollutants and reduces their potential to make people sick. The negative is that flash floods can spread pollutants across wider areas. There is also the potential for inorganic pollutants to leach and contaminate ground water.”Ingram and Hansen both warn that proper waste management is required to mitigate the impact of flash floods. “A lot of issues are simple to solve. Households can ensure they separate their waste for better management and the municipality can come collect the waste regularly,” says Hansen. “When it comes to microbial contamination of water, basic things like filtering or boiling water for a minimum of ten minutes can prevent illness.”Community members are advised to recycle regularly to reduce waste impact.Qondile Khedama, spokesperson of the Mangaung Metro Municipality, said the metro had put in place extra resources in terms of fleet and personnel to deal with the backlog. It had put ten trucks, instead of five, and teams together, from different subdivisions.