Strange finds in sewers

City calls for community assistance

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The City of Cape Town is requesting residents’ help in alleviating the problem of sewage blockages in the city, which has been costly and affected service delivery. 

While the City of Cape Town will continue to initiate steps to lessen the problem of blockages, it cannot do so without the help of residents. The City appeals to residents to not put inappropriate objects into the sewer system or disconnect any illegal stormwater connections, both of which are illegal.

The cost of unblocking sewers is expected to amount to approximately R311 million in the current financial year, which the City could have used to build new infrastructure and increase service delivery to residents.

To try and mitigate the costly challenge, extra cleaning of the sewer drainage system is done prior to winter. Additionally, the City runs a proactive campaign to educate the public against the dumping of inappropriate objects in the sewer system.

The campaign will continue, following successes in targeted areas. The City’s Water and Sanitation Department will re-evaluate the key problematic areas after the recent heavy rains and strengthen the campaign in these communities.

The dumping of inappropriate objects and the creation of illegal stormwater connections to the sewer system has exacerbated the extreme flooding experienced over the past three months.

Cape Town has more than 9 000 kilometers of domestic sewers, which convey the volumes of sewage and industrial discharges coming from several suburbs to its 23 wastewater treatment works.

Annually, the City deals with approximately 102 000 sewer blockages, or about 11 blockages per kilometre, largely caused by the incorrect usage of the onsite sewer system, the removal of sewer covers, the dumping of inappropriate objects and vandalism of the City’s infrastructure. In the 2012/2013 financial year, 57 000 of these sewer blockage incidents were as a result of contraventions to the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law.

Cement dumping is also of great concern, as the cement starts to form part of the sewer structure. On two occasions, the City has had to spend more than R140 000 to remove cement in the sewers.

This should be viewed as a form of sabotage and we would like encourage responsible citizenship to stem the abuse and vandalism of our sewer networks. The budget, energy and resources spent on rectifying the damage caused by these activities could rather have benefitted service delivery,” says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Ernest Sonnenberg.

Examples of objects removed from sewers include:

  • suitcases
  • ram’s horns
  • sheep skins
  • building rubble
  • a trolley
  • a set of cutlery
  • tyres (most common)

As we are committed to being a well-run city, responsive to the needs of our citizens, we have gone to great lengths to ensure sewer blockages are fixed timeously. A shared responsibility for this massive challenge, however, is vital. It causes severe inconvenience to many residents and our staff works tirelessly to resolve these incidents. Often, our staff find objects in the system that are so disturbing that one does not even want to mention them,” says Sonnenberg.

It is important that the City is informed when these dumping activities or acts of vandalism occur. Residents should report this to the City’s Call Centre by calling 0860 10 30 89, sending an SMS to 31373 or an e-mail to watertoc@capetown.gov.za. Alternatively, residents can use a FreeCall line at a nearby City facility.

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