Sewage dirties dam

2019-11-20 15:00

Part of Midmar Dam has been declared off limits amid a public outcry over sewage flowing into the dam, which has drawn renewed attention to a historical sewerage problem plaguing the Mpophomeni area.

Images circulating on social media from Monday night showed what appeared to be a thick layer of sewage entering the Mthinzima Bay portion of Midmar Dam. Some images showed the area being cordoned off with buoys, but they turned out to be fake.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on Tuesday confirmed that anglers and sailors will not be allowed in on the Thurlow Gate side, near Mpophomeni, until it is clear whether the water quality poses a danger or not.

The Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) said sewage flowing into the dam was not out of the ordinary and explained that it happens because of the poor reticulation systems in Mpophomeni, which means sewage leaks into the dam.

The area where sewage is flowing into Midmar Dam is marked on a map. 

Umgeni Water, meanwhile, has confirmed it will start rolling out a new R389 million wastewater treatment plant in Mpophomeni in January, which should almost completely eliminate sewage spillages into Midmar Dam.

Spokesperson Shami Harichunder said sewage is currently transferred from Mpophomeni to the Howick wastewater treatment works, and that pipeline often has capacity problems and spills. The recent rains exacerbated this.

Harichunder dismissed “exaggerated” claims on social media about the degree of spillage into Midmar Dam, saying staff spent Tuesday disinfecting excess spillage. “This will be followed by rigorous sampling of water quality at the dam. Umgeni Water will continue investigations and monitoring water quality over the next few days.”

He said it was unlikely that there would be any impact on water quality, and said a closure of the dam would not be warranted.

A director of Duct, Liz Taylor, said the sewage flowing into Midmar Dam was because of leaks in Mpophomeni. She said Duct oversaw 86 manholes in the area and found them to be leaking often.

She believed the recent heavy rains may have led to more sewage flowing into the dam on Tuesday, which may have been why it was temporarily visible on top of the water.

Taylor said sewage from Mpophomeni goes into a bulk sewer pipe into one pumping station, then to Howick via a large concrete pipe where it is treated.

“The leak into the river is nothing new. The reticulation [in Mpophomeni] is either blocked or broken, and it may have been exacerbated by rains.”

DA councillors Hazel Lake and Ross Strachan conducted an oversight of the dam as well as the Mpophomeni sewage pumping station, where all was found to be normal.

Councillors, however, said they regularly received complaints about sewage leaks in Howick and Mpophomeni, and said there was a serious infrastructure problem.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  sewage spillage

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