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Concerns raised after wastewater flows into Umhlatuzana River

Wastewater from a blocked drain is overflowing into the Umhlatuzana River. Picture supplied.

Wastewater from a blocked drain is overflowing into the Umhlatuzana River. Picture supplied.

Published Aug 14, 2019

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Durban - For nearly five months, wastewater from a blocked drain has been flowing into the Umhlatuzana River south of Durban, and despite the city receiving a directive from the KwaZulu-Natal water and sanitation department, it has not been repaired. 

Samantha Windvogel, eThekwini ward 65 councillor, said residents are bearing the brunt of service delivery problems. She said the matter was reported to the eThekwini water and sanitation department in March 2019 and it was still not attended to on Wednesday.

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“The streams in Bottlebrush / Piet Retief / Kharwastan ( Heron Street) / Umhlathuzana and Seaview have sewer overflowing into it since the recent floods. The corner of Titren and Marnavale Road Seaview has sewer overflowing and the eThekwini sewer department states they having major challenges and backlogs,” Windvogel said. 

She said there were many sewer overflows and leakages in ward 65 and some residents have been complaining for more than two months. 

"It sad how the residents have to suffer under these conditions. Whilst the municipality sit back and do nothing," she said.

Windvogel has since taken the matter up with the KZN water and sanitation department. In response to her query, the department issued a directive to the city manager Sipho Nzuza in terms of the National Water Act (NWA): Failing to take reasonable measures to contain or prevent a situation which causes pollution of a water resource from continuing. 

The department said the directive was issued because of the sewage overflow emanating from Bottlebrush and Kharwastan areas discharging into the tributary of the Umhlathuzana River and as a result into the Durban Harbor, which is posing a risk to human health and well being.

The department urged the city to take all reasonable measures to prevent any such pollution from occurring, continuing or recurring.  

The department stated that it was notified on 19 June 2019 of the sewage overflow into the tributary of the Umhlathuzana River from a property near Heron Street in Kharwastan.

On the same day, the department stated that it forwarded an email to the municipality requesting that the complaint be investigated and responded to. 

 On 24 June 2019, the department conducted a site inspection and found raw sewage within the tributary of the Umhlathuzana River near Heron Street. 

In addition, the department took samples and over 13 000 000 counts of E.coli per 100 ml were recorded from the tributary of the Umhlathuzana River. 

The department again conducted a site inspection on 3 July 2019. Again raw sewage was observed within the tributary of the Umhlathuzana River.

The department stated that a manhole and displaced pipe also discharging raw sewage into the tributary of the Umhlathuzana River downstream of Bottlebrush area and upstream of Heron Street was observed during the time of inspection. 

In the directive document, Ashley Starkey the Provincial Head: KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Office of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) directed city manager Sipho Nzuza to 

* within two working days stop the sewage that is being discharged into the tributary of the Umhlathuzana River near Bottlebrush and Heron Street; 

* within seven working days appoint at an Independent Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) or engage internal relevant expertise to assess the extent of the environmental damage caused; 

* compile a Rehabilitation and Remediation Plan to be submitted to the Department for approval prior to being implemented and a monitoring report monthly thereafter for a duration of six months. 

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said they did receive the directive relating to the Umhlatazana River pollution. 

"We responded accordingly. There is currently a contractor on site repairing the 600mm diameter elevated sewer. We are also in the process of appointing an aquatic environmental specialist to carry out remedial work to the river. These were as per the conditions in the directive from the Department of Water and Sanitation, with whom we’ve been in constant contact with,"Mayisela said.

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