Concern over faulty sewerage system

Rene Beukes and her family went without water for three weeks after a City staffer fixing an electric pole damaged her water meter while digging up the pavement.

A faulty sewerage system at a Heideveld housing project has frustrated many residents there, and most claim it is futile to complain to the City of Cape Town, as nothing is being done about it.

A group representing the residents estimates half of the houses built in Long Kloof Circle – the last phase of the housing project – have sewerage problems.

Residents complain that when they flush their toilets, sewage spills over and reaches the outside of their properties, causing an almost permanent stench in the area.

Resident Vanessa Sauls, spokesperson for the residents’ group, said it had been inundated with complaints about the plumbing, structural defects and poor workmanship.

“We have been told by the City that the contractor is dealing with the ‘snags’, as City officials refer to them, but our pleas have just fallen on deaf ears.

“Some of the houses have cracked and damp walls, cracked foundations, and one woman’s stairs are even loose. How dangerous is that?

“In December, people moved into incomplete houses. People are desperate for housing, and when they are given keys, they just move in.

“How can the City give people keys to houses when they do not have water or electricity? Some houses didn’t even have taps. The contractor claimed that the taps were stolen. The sewerage is also always a problem.

“Why is nobody taking the contractor to task? And I can’t help wonder if it is qualified inspectors who are signing these houses off. My husband has fixed a few things on our home, but not everybody is in a position to do that. I believe one should not give something to someone that you would not accept – so why is the City doing this?

“Tenders are given to the same contractor all the time, and everywhere this contractor builds, people have the same complaints. These sub-standard houses are just being signed off all the time,” Ms Sauls said.

Joy van Niekerk and her family moved in on Saturday December 17 last year. Their house is among those in Long Kloof Circle which had no water when they moved in.

“Our water was only connected some time in the week of Monday January 22. We were told that the main valve was not connected; that is why we didn’t have water.

“Since the water has been connected, though, we have had endless problems. The dampness in our walls has been rising, and the sewerage system and the water pipes leak.

“The sewage overflows when you pull the toilet’s chain. We have spoken to the plumbers directly, as they are still working on site, but they informed us that they have already signed off the plumbing works over to the council.

“We are already experiencing a shortage of water, and for our water to be running away like this is not right. One of our neighbours told us that it would be best for us to fix the problems ourselves because they get no joy from the council,” Ms Van Niekerk said.

Residents have also complained about poor service delivery.

René Beukes said a City team fixing an electric pole in her street (West Peak) four weeks ago had damaged her water meter, leaving her without water for three weeks, despite her having lodged several complaints.

“Die mense raak duk van ons wat aanhou vir hulle water vra. It is very frustrating to be without water. I can’t do my washing, and I can’t flush the toilet. The water meters and pipes have been installed too shallow on the pavement. It can easily be damaged.”

Ms Sauls said she knew of a 73-year-old woman, who had used adult diapers, who had had to go without water for 10 days. The woman’s daughter had complained several times without resolution. Then she spotted City staff reconnecting a neighbour’s water supply and had asked one of them to help.

“He then apparently told her he did not have a request, but that he will ‘do her a favour’ by reconnecting it. How can this be described as a favour when it is the City’s job to do this, and the matter has been reported several times?” Ms Sauls asked.

Many of the residents of Long Kloof Circle are still without water, and there is a communal water pipe, where they collect water.

The Athlone News sent the City a list of questions about these concerns, but was told the City could not respond by deadline as the relevant official was on leave.