Alarm bells about the lake's pollution have been rung by area counsellor Jill Humphreys, who showed The Star e-mail correspondence she had with city officials, including the Department of Water and Sanitation’s acting chief engineer, Hendrik Botha, alerting them to what she described as an ecological disaster.
In one e-mail sent to officials in the Departments of Water and Sanitation and Water Quality and Environmental Health, dated April 4, Humphreys wrote: “As you are aware, I have been reporting for not weeks, but months about this issue. It is essential that the source of this ingress be traced. As a result of this ongoing pollution, the fish at Gillooly’s are dying. If the fish are dying, so are all the frogs, crabs and numerous other creatures. The biodiversity of our metro is being severely compromised. More recently, as a result of large quantities of foam entering the stream, this has been exacerbated. We still don't know where this came from. The protection of our waterways, lakes and dams is essential. We are failing horribly. Please assist urgently!”
Two days later, Botha responded saying: “We instructed (a) contractor to do a CCTV inspection of the sewer pipe on the c/o Van der Linde and Smith. We suspect that the pipe might be damaged and that (sewage) is leaking into the stormwater pipe underground. I should have the results tomorrow.”
Humphreys told The Star that the Department of Solid Waste Management had “reacted very well” after she first alerted it to the “problem”, saying there were teams of officials removing “thousands” of dead fish from the water.
“My anger, though, is at the other departments – Environmental Health and Sanitation Departments – that have not properly responded for months to my desperate attempts to get the issues, first, sourced and, second, dealt with,” Humphreys said.
She added that Botha had not carried out the inspection to ascertain the cause of the leakages as promised.
“And what really gets to me is that we still don't know whether it is sewage or if there is some other industrial effluent that has gone in. I suspect that detergents are the cause But, until they actually go to the dam and test the water, we won’t know what remedial action will be taken," she said.
Efforts to get comment from Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe, including detailed SMSs, were unsuccessful at the time of publication.
The Gauteng tourism website describes Gillooly’s Farm as a “piece of land that is famous for its walking trails, birds and recreational areas”; where there “is also a large human-made lake that is home to a number of fish species such as the common carp, blue kurper and sharptooth catfish (barbel).”