An aerial view of the Potsdam wastewater treatment works. PIcture: Supplied
An aerial view of the Potsdam wastewater treatment works. PIcture: Supplied

Table View residents rage over stench caused by untreated sewage and sludge

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Jan 18, 2021

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Cape Town - Residents from Table View are up in arms over the stench from untreated sewage and sludge at the City’s Potsdam wastewater treatment works (WWTW) and have threatened legal action.

For the past week, residents have been complaining in letters to the City and via social media posts in forums such as Stop CoCT, Dear Cape Town and the Milnerton Central Residents Association (MCRA) on Facebook.

Responding to the complaints, Mayco member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg blamed the problem on a hitch in the City’s tendering process.

Limberg said: “Sludge is being stockpiled because the tender for its removal and disposal is being appealed, and therefore has not been awarded. Previous attempts to award the tender have been unsuccessful due to an appeal that was upheld, and one recommended tenderer withdrawing, leaving no acceptable bids for consideration.

“The procurement of service providers must be in line with the Municipal Finance Management Act and associated supply chain regulations. Every effort has been made since March 2020 to ensure an expedited supply chain process.

“Sludge collection, transport and disposal is performed by third party specialist contractors. Under normal circumstances, sludge is removed on a daily basis so these are exceptional circumstances,” said Limberg.

“The City of Cape Town’s Water and Waste Directorate is currently exploring all options to remove sludge from the plant until the tender for this service is awarded. Everything possible is being done to address the unpleasant smell emanating from the facility,” said Limberg.

Replying to Limberg the MCRA, which is leading a campaign called #stopthestink, urged residents to support legal action against the City: “More importantly, we need you, the resident/ratepayer, to channel your anger with the City in a meaningful way.

“Help us force the City to gets it act together and prioritise our water, our air and our waterways. When they are sitting on hard benches in the court room they will understand that we mean business,” said MCRA.

“It is really no good for City of Cape Town executives to keep pointing fingers at everyone else and putting spin out there as to why this ecological disaster is happening on our doorstep.”

The City has had since March 2020 to ensure that either a suitable contract or a contingency plan was in place by January 1, 2021 to have sewage sludge removed daily from Potsdam.

“Failure to have a plan means that rate-paying residents are having to suffer the stink and that the City is once again in legal contravention of the Potsdam WWTW licence,” said the MCRA statement.

In a letter to a Table View resident who had complained, ward councillor Joy Solomon said: “The odour is caused by a problem with the sludge ponds, which have malfunctioned. There were two options open to the City: pump the sludge into the river and vlei or to store the sludge on site at WWTW. They have opted for the latter, spraying each day with deodoriser to reduce the odour,” said Solomon.

Cape Argus

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