Durban - Plumbing jobs on each side of the Barth’s gate in Berea are chalk and cheese.
Within their property, Jack Barth has installed pipes to prevent sewage spills that made his bottom floor redundant for two weeks after cleaning it. Another one he has put in, takes muck from manholes that routinely clog up and sometimes overflow, down to a servitude a block away.
Outside the gate, scars on the tar show where different plumbers have been on a wild goose chase in search of the source of the problem that has plagued the Barths for 18 months.
“It’s actually down there where it’s blocked,” said Barth, pointing further down Springfield Road.
After a career in the building industry, he wonders whether the many plumbers sent by the municipality know their game.
They come here and do a bit of ramming, fiddle around and then sign their job off, but the problem doesn’t go away, said Barth.
“I can’t believe that the contractors can’t read a drawing or ascertain where the connection is.”
Looking at the additional emergency piping he has installed after disconnecting some plumbing, his wife, Claire, wonders how much worse a similar problem would be for a resident without her husband’s building knowledge.
The city said its plumber positions required applicants to be “qualified artisan plumber(s)” and to have two or three years’ experience depending on whether they were seeking level one or level two positions respectively.
Mondays can be manic for the Barths, as they start the week bringing in labour to open the manholes and unblock the drains containing everyone up the road’s weekend sewage, as well as sand that comes in from housing in the road above them. It often gurgles up and overflows, particularly after rainy weather or floods.
It’s a twice – sometimes three times a week – routine job after which comes a session of spraying chemicals, including Jeyes’ Fluid, down on the ground.
The costs build up, chemicals having tallied more than R17 000, in addition to labour as well as paying for the municipality’s services – or lack thereof – through rates.
It has also cost the Barth’s socially. The situation has required that a “maak ‘n plan” pipe has had to traverse an adjacent property, which has led to neighbourly disagreements.
And the Barths have been unable to have visitors into their home.
“We feel brow beaten,” Claire added.
This week the city said it was unable to explain why the problem had remained unresolved for so long.
The Independent on Saturday