Sewage spill causes frustration for family

The drain is situated on Wilma Solomons property.

A Bridgetown woman has accused the City of Cape Town of dragging its feet to clean up a sewer spill near her house.

Wilma Solomon says she and her family endured a foul stench and effluent around their home for four days after a storm on Tuesday June 4 caused a blockage in a drain on her property. It overflowed and flooded the vicinity with sewage.

When she walked out of her house on Wednesday June 5 to go to work, she walked into a flood of foul-stinking effluent.

She said she had logged a complaint with the City on Thursday morning June 6 but had been told a major drain in the area was blocked, causing a complaints backlog and she would have to wait.

She had called again on Friday and had emailed the City, but no one had responded.

“I called about four times, and I asked for the depot’s number, but no one could give it to me. We couldn’t even flush our toilet because the water was coming up. Did they not prepare for the winter season? The water ended up flooding our entire yard. We pay rates so why is their service delivery so poor?” said Ms Solomon.

Sanitation staff eventually unblocked the drain on Saturday June 8.

“I asked them what took them so long, but they could not answer me. I was so frustrated as it posed a health risk to my family,” she said.

However, Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for water and waste, said the City had about 300 sewer overflows daily, and most were caused by the public’s misuse of the sewers.

Common causes of blockages and overflows were rags, nappies, tampons and sanitary pads, wet wipes, condoms, general litter, building materials, and the build-up of cooking fat and or oil.

It’s illegal to dispose of anything in a municipal sewer that can block it.

“Unfortunately, as long as residents continue to abuse the system, blockages and or overflows will continue to occur,” Ms Limberg said.

“The sewer reticulation system is only geared to accept toilet waste such as urine, faeces, and toilet paper and sink, basin, and bath waste such as water, washing liquid and soap.”

Cooking oil and fats, she said, harden and build up on the insides of sewer pipes, acting like glue and attracting rags, hair, paper and other debris.

“The hardness of these blockages can also make them very difficult to clean out,” she said.

Ms Limberg said blockages were on the increase despite many public education drives about the link between illegal dumping, the misuse of sewers and sewer spills.

“Many times residents are not willing to acknowledge their role in creating overflows,” Ms Limberg said.

“We would also like to call on residents to please help educate their families and communities about how to prevent blockages and the environmental damage these can cause”, she added.