New mayor vows to tackle city’s sewage woes

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis with mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi during their site visit to the Milky Way detention pond in Phoenix.

Cape Town’s newly elected executive mayor vowed to tackle the sewage issue at a detention pond in Phoenix during his first site visit of the area last week.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis visited Phoenix and Khayelitsha last week Friday in his first week as the mayor of Cape Town. He promised Cape Town residents he would assemble a team of officials to discuss an urgent turnaround for the failing infrastructure in the City and get more City officials to attend to the sewage problems.

The detention pond at Milky Way Drive has been a source of irritation for Phoenix residents over the past few years. In July, Phoenix residents said that there was a general lack of maintenance at the pond and the grate that was meant to stop litter from going into the pond was broken (“Call for ministers to tackle city water pollution crisis,” Tabletalk, July 14).

Mr Hill-Lewis said that he had been concerned about the number of sewer spills in the city for a long time and this was his chance to get stuck in.

“I’ve seen how one system failure, a blocked stormwater drain, has four or five major and very expensive knock-on effects. I have tasked the relevant officials in the City to come up with a short-term plan to address these issues as soon as possible. This will be in addition to our long-term plan to increase infrastructure investment,” he said.

Mr Hill-Lewis said that City officials would be given more equipment to help them do a better job of making sure these sewage spills don’t get out of hand.

The detention pond gets polluted by litter flowing into the water, but there is also a faulty pump station nearby spilling sewage.

Sindiswa Mhlontlo, of the Phoenix Ratepayers and Community Forum, said that this would ultimately have a negative effect on Lagoon Beach. She also said that a lot of people were misusing the stormwater system.

“The main challenge is the stormwater system, which is used as a sewage system. We have informal settlements, basic service delivery issues and overpopulation in the area. But for the residents, particularly residents in Milky Way and Taurus Road, the challenge is ongoing illegal dumping. The look and feel of Milky Way Park is not up to standard and is a health-and-safety concern,” she said.

Phoenix residents and City officials joined mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis during his visit to Phoenix last week.

Some Phoenix residents say they have heard all these promises before. Claire Pickering, said that every new councillor and every new mayor promised services that would be quicker and better.

“But the areas we live in are not getting better. Instead our community just gets worse every year. Our parks are deteriorating. The sewage bursts every other day. Failing pump stations. When will it end? I want to stay positive, but it’s so hard when your community is getting worse,” she said.

Peter Walsh, of the Milnerton Central Residents’ Association, also said that he was worried about the impact that the sewage at the pond would have on Lagoon Beach.

“In terms of the new mayor, it’s probably too soon to call it. We need to wait and see if the promises will be fulfilled. Xanthia Limberg is gone so I guess Geordin doesn’t think she can do the job. But again, we have to wait and see because the conditions at that pond are very bad. They haven’t done anything there in 14 months, and I feel sorry for the people of Phoenix who have to live near that,” he said.

Former mayoral committee member for area north and current Good party member, Suzette Little, said in a statement that her party welcomed the removal of Ms Limberg from the water and waste portfolio.

“We trust the new leadership will work to resolve the escalating problems of pollution and overflowing sewers in communities as fast as possible,” she said.

Amanda Kemp, of the Phoenix Ratepayers’ Association, said that she was confident that there would be changes in the neighbourhood because there were much-needed changes in the leadership.

“I really believe we will see changes. Our area has been going down for a long time, and I see some positivity. We need to see immediate changes. We have been going through a lot here. Getting sick because of the poor conditions. We needed this change,” she said.