Residents fed up with smell

An open plot next to Lowlift Sewage Pump Station where the run-off from the sewage pump accumulates and causes a terrible smell for residents in the Seawinds area. PHOTO: Racine Edwardes
An open plot next to Lowlift Sewage Pump Station where the run-off from the sewage pump accumulates and causes a terrible smell for residents in the Seawinds area. PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

The City of Cape Town has expressed their intention to clear up the spill that resulted from a malfunction at Lowlift Sewage Pump Station recently, but residents are fed-up, saying that the smell has in actual fact been affecting them for years.

“On Monday 15 July, the pumps at the Lowlift Pump Station tripped as a result of overheating, after pumping continuously for some time. This is as a result of fat in the sump which caused the pump sensors to malfunction,” says acting Mayco member for water and waste, Felicity Purchase.

According to Purchase, the station is usually operational with just one pump but as a result of the malfunction, more pumps needed to be activated, which in turn caused the neighbouring plot to become filled with pungent-smelling water.

“Due to the pump not operating, there was a significant buildup of water in the reticulation system and the pump station sump. When the pump station became operational again, it was required that three pumps be activated to pump away the build-up of water in the system. This resulted in the surge out of the manhole,” she says.

Residents, however, have said that this particular reticulation system has been a continuous problem in the community, even forcing some people to relocate as a result of the ongoing smell and hygiene issues they’ve faced.

Charmaine Craven, a resident of Spoonbill Crescent in Seawinds, has faced the issue of the smelly sewage pump for more than two decades. “We smell the pump here every morning. It’s a problem because there are the children here at the school,” she says, referring to Zerilda Primary School.

The school’s principal, Lorna Engledoe shared her experience with the pump station over the 30 years that she’s been working at the school. 

“Regularly I get the secretary to phone the council because we just can’t handle it anymore. At lunchtime when I walk across the field, I have to pinch my nose,” says Engeldoe.

“Disinfectants will be used to clean the area and minimise the odour,” Purchase says, reassuring residents that action will be taken as soon as the rain subsides.

A resident of Military Road who lives near the pump, Alice Jansen has lived in that house for about 35 years and says they have cleaned it before but the smell always returns. She explains: “For a little while the smell was gone, but every winter it comes back. I went to the council in Plumstead last month to sort this out. It’s so bad that sometimes we can’t even sleep – and there are the flies and mosquitoes in summer, so we really can’t sleep!”

Engeldoe claims that years ago a schoolboy fell into the sewage that lay near the pump and fell critically ill as a result. She says the council cleaned the area after that incident, but soon after, the pump began to leak out into the open plot again.

“The smell is terrible all the time and worse when it’s hot – and especially when they pump there. 

When they pump it also makes a terrible noise, that you can’t even hear yourself speak in the house,” said another resident, Dorothy Prime, who has also been a resident in Seawinds for about 30 years.

Purchase offered residents some advice to maintain a functional sewage system in the surrounding areas. “We appeal to residents to please not dispose of cooking oil or fat into the system as it creates serious blockages in the system. 

“When poured or flushed down your sink and drain, they harden and build up on the inside of the sewer pipes and act like glue, attracting rags, hair, paper and other debris. The hardness of these blockages can also make them very difficult to clean out,” she concludes.

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