Cape Flats gets R539 million sewer upgrade

Instead of digging up trenches, this 90kg robotic crawler will be lowered into the sewer to determine which sections should be prioritised for refurbishment.

Work has started on a R539 million project to repair two Cape Flats bulk sewer lines that were built in the 1960s.

Cape Flats 1 and Cape Flats 2, as they are known, were built in 1962 and 1969 and service more than 300 000 households on the Cape Flats.

The lines are currently out of use and the sewage from areas such as Bridgetown, Athlone, Hanover Park, Lotus River, Ottery, Grassy Park, Eagle Park, and areas around Pelican Park, among others, now flows through a third line, Cape Flats 3, which was built in 2017.

The City is currently inspecting Cape Flats 1 to determine which parts of the pipe need replacing, according to mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg.

The R133 million budgeted for this financial year will cover the replacement of 28km of pipeline.

A bulk sewer line, Ms Limberg says, is like a highway for sewage bound for the treatment works. The Cape Flats 1 and 2 bulk sewer system starts at the Bridgetown sewage pump station, from which sewage is pumped up to the Hazel Road mixing chamber, located south of the Hazel/Klipfontein Roads intersection.

From the Hazel Road mixing chamber, the flow is split into the Cape Flats 1 and 2 bulk gravity sewers, made of reinforced concrete, and ranging in diameter from 1000mm to 1800mm. The two sewers follow the same route through the suburbs for about 14km before discharging into the Cape Flats wastewater treatment works.

Most of their inflow is from the Raapenberg and Bridgetown pump stations, which service Athlone, Hanover Park, Lotus River, Ottery, Grassy Park, Eagle Park, and areas around Pelican Park, among others.

Work is under way at various sections of Cape Flats 1 to repair and replace the 14 km pipeline, which ranges from 1050mm to 1450mm in diameter – one of Cape Town’s largest sewer systems. Once this is done, work will begin on Cape Flats 2, which ranges from 1500mm to 1800mm in diameter. In total, 28km of pipeline and about 331 manholes will be repaired or replaced depending on the damage.

Instead of digging up trenches, this will be done through a manhole where a 90kg robotic crawler will be lowered into the sewer to determine which sections should be prioritised for refurbishment.

Ms Limberg says that during a four-month clean-up of Cape Flats 1, before work could commence, more than 600 tons of rags, silt, sand, grease, bricks, cutlery, animal carcasses and more were removed.

“This is a very complex project, and we hope to replace the damaged pipes with strong enough pipes to last for many years.”

Hanover Park Residents’ Forum chairman Denver Andrews says that while residents were not informed about work, it is very welcome because there have been many complaints about blocked drains and toilets.

Stormwater drains bock and roads flood in Hanover Park when it rains, he says.

“We really would like more transparency about things like this. We are none the wiser. We haven’t had a public meeting in over two years. We just open our doors in the morning and see work being done in the road.”

Bridgetown Community Development Forum chairman Chris Osborn says he is happy about the project because he feared Cape Flats 3 would collapse because of all the extra pressure. But he too agreed that there should have been better communication with residents.

“Many residents have complained about spillage in their yards, blocked drains, discolouration in the water, bad water taste, and slow water pressure so I am glad that this being sorted.”