Sewage spills making children sick, say Joe Slovo residents

Residents of Nkomo Drive, Joe Slovo, say they’ve had sewage spilling into their street for two weeks.

Residents of Nkomo Drive in Joe Slovo say their children are getting sick from sewage frequently flooding yards.

About two weeks ago, sewage started gushing out from under manhole covers in the street, says resident Nomakhazi Tshali.

“We are aware of problems like this in Joe Slovo, but we never had this particular issue.”

But now whenever someone flushes a toilet, residents in the road hear a “rumbling” outside in the drains.

“Soon after, we see sewage everywhere,” said Ms Tshali. “It’s disgusting because this is people’s faeces coming from these drains and flowing into our yards. Even if you don’t flush in your home, someone somewhere is flushing and the poo just keeps coming up.”

She and her neighbours have been digging trenches to divert the sewage from their yards, but Ms Tshali said that was not a solution and the spillages had to be stopped.

The City says a collapsed pipe on the corner of Democracy Way and Freedom Way is likely to blame for sewage spills in Nkomo Drive.

Thandaza Jola, also of Nkomo Drive, said that her 8-year-old son had a bad cough and a runny tummy.

“I blame the dirty water in our street. Children don’t listen, so they play where they aren’t supposed to. But it’s often hard to avoid these sewage spills and the rubbish that’s dumped in the streets because our kids usually play. With Covid still a thing in our society, this is making me feel uneasy,” said Ms Jola.

Sibongile Kofi, a Joe Slovo community leader, said residents had called him about the problem.

“It’s bad that our people have to constantly live like this,” he said. “I think the problem started when City officials tried to fix the sewage pipes on the main road. It seems that when they started pumping to clean the drainage system on the main road (Freedom Way), the after-effect is that this road – which is adjacent to Freedom Way – gets flooded.”

Meanwhile residents of Hobe Road, which is notorious for flooding when it rains, sewage spills and illegal dumping, say they have given up trying to get help from City because no sooner is the street cleaned than the illegal dumping returns and a sewage pipe bursts.

Pretty Velaphi lives in Hobe Road. She said her children were constantly sick because of the conditions.

“It’s a struggle every day. I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. They are always sick, and I always have to spend time off work taking them to the clinic. It’s easy for people to just say I must move to protect my children’s health. But where do we go from here? It’s not that easy. I can’t just pack up and leave. That takes more money that I can’t afford.”

Ward 4 councillor Wandisile Ngeyi said he had called for municipal staff to deal with the problem in Nkomo Drive.

“Unfortunately, Joe Slovo as a whole has a big problem when it comes to sewage spills, and it’s not just Nkomo Drive,” he said.

According to Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services and health, the City has run awareness drives in the area, warning about the dangers of blocking drains.

“Information was provided on how residents can create service notifications on the City website,” he said.

The community had also been cautioned “on the health effects and possible related communicable diseases that could arise from exposure and possible ingestion of any sewerage matter”.

Inspectors also checked on spaza shops, food stalls, creches and preschools and warned them of possible health risks, he said.

“City Health is engaging with all relevant departments that service the area to address conditions which may impact health,” he said.

Hobe Road is known for flooding, sewage leaks and illegal dumping.

City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said the City was working hard to reduce sewage spills in the area. Foreign objects in the sewer system were often to blame, but in this case it was likely a collapsed pipe on the corner of Freedom Way and Democracy Way, he said.

“The City has set up a temporary pumping system around the collapsed section, which is functioning to prevent overflows at most times, but foreign objects in the system and illegal stormwater/sewer cross-connections can overwhelm the pumps, especially when it rains,” he said.

Mr Tyhalibongo urged residents to check that their gutters drained into the stormwater system and not into the sewers. They should also log service requests and report blockages, and they could visit www.capetown.gov.za/servicerequests; email water@capetown.gov.za; SMS 31373; call 0860 103 089 or go to municipal office to do that.