Joe Slovo swamped by sewage for over a month

Sewage spills are a frequent problem in Joe Slovo.

Milnerton residents have raised the alarm about ongoing sewer spills, blocked drains, and flooding in Joe Slovo.

For over a month, the Facebook group #RethinkTheStink has been updating residents in the greater Milnerton area about the issues faced by Joe Slovo residents, especially the constant sewage bubbling out from drains in the community.

The group was started by like-minded Milnerton residents who want to raise awareness and make a change to the high levels of pollution in the rivers, vleis and oceans around Cape Town.

Since the end of April, the group has paid special attention to Freedom Way and Democracy Way in Joe Slovo. Caroline Marx is head of the environmental portfolio of the Milnerton Central Ratepayers’ Association and also one of the admins on the #RethinkTheStink group. She said that on Saturday it had been 33 days of monitoring the situation where raw sewage was pouring into the streets of Joe Slovo.

“This is people’s health at risk and causing untold damage downstream to our river and ocean. It is not acceptable by the City of Cape Town,” she said.

Raw sewage still flows a month later in Joe Slovo. Residents say they are worried about getting sick.

Others called for mayor Dan Plato and Xanthia Limberg, the mayoral committee member for water and waste, to visit the area to see how bad things were. Some residents said they had been logging service complaints with the City daily but still the problem persisted.

Ward 113 councillor Joy Solomon said the Democracy/Freedom Way sewer line had been a problem even while she had been the councillor for Ward 4, from 2011 to 2016. There were too many people living there and the sewers were abused, she said.

“The manhole on Freedom Way and elsewhere was used as a refuse area. Dead animals, foetuses, car engines, lawnmowers, etc were shoved in the manholes. This stopped the maceration immediately and caused it to overflow at least once a week. A community education programme helped for a while and probably needs to be repeated,” she said.

According to Ms Limberg, the City is aware of the sewer spills but City officials need the community’s help to tackle the problem.

“The main cause of sewer overflows City-wide, including these areas, is disposal and flushing of foreign objects into sewers. This creates blockages. For this reason, only human waste and toilet paper are allowed to be flushed. The most common cause of blockages is cloth rags and fats from cooking. Fats that are washed off our dishes cool and harden on the inside of pipes, making them smaller over time, and acting like glue to everything that flows past, including rags which are commonly flushed down toilets.”

This is a familiar sight in Joe Slovo. Residents and their young children have to navigate through the dirt and sewage in the streets.

Bucket machines screened the pipes for inappropriate matter; the pipes underwent water-pressure cleaning and vacuuming; and sand and rag traps were cleaned twice a week, Ms Limberg said. The City also ran awareness drives, warning residents about things that could choke the pipes and cause overflows.

The City’ website also has information about this.

“If we are going to see a quick improvement, we need to keep making the community aware of what is causing the problems,” Ms Limber said. “Helping to educate each other on what can be safely flushed, as well as the impact of connecting rain gutters to sewers will result in significant improvements. This is especially crucial in a community like Joe Slovo and Dunoon where land invasions and unapproved development make maintenance much more challenging.”