Durban - Eskom load shedding has been blamed for the sewage spill after a mysterious black sludge and “excessive” amounts of vegetation and debris floated onto the Cuttings Beach, Merewent, at the weekend.
eThekwini pollution and environment manager, Chris Fennemore, confirmed that load shedding had been the cause of the spill after generators could not handle the workload at the sewage pump station at Merewent.
But he also added that poor infrastructure in the nearby informal settlement could not be ruled out. He said the effluent was both domestic and industrial sewage.
“With load shedding, we will be exposed to more waste floating around. In the informal settlement, which has poor sanitation, waste gets eroded into nearby streams after heavy rainfalls. All the plastic containers and other rubbish finds its way into the ocean,” he said.
Fennemore said they had about 50 generators in 280 sewage pump stations and 27 waste water treatment centres.
“Obviously, these generators cannot handle the pressure of producing power like normal electricity does,” he said.
Visitors to the beach complained about the ovpowering stench.
However, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance co-ordinator Desmond D’Sa and a group of fishermen accused the municipality of getting it wrong.
D’Sa maintained the spill had come from an FET college near Mobeni, and the city had known about this problem, but decided to hide behind load shedding.
D’Sa also argued the spill had overflowed into the southern works canal, next to the uMlazi Canal.
“They have got it all wrong; it shows they have never been here to assess the disaster; only the uMlazi River Canal had been affected. The marine life has been greatly affected by this and only God knows when this will be cleared out,” he said. D’Sa said the spill had caused alarm among beachgoers and he had requested Metro Police to have the area cordoned off. He said it was been the biggest spill he had ever seen.
“We had boys coming to swim, but we chased them away. Look at the s**t, disposable nappies and plastic containers floating around. There have been a number of dead fish floating. People will contract opportunistic illnesses if they swim in this water,” D’Sa said.
Fisherman Dion Olivier, from Wentworth, told the Daily News he had been at the beach when he saw blue, clear water changing into a murky colour.
“It is ridiculous. There have been several sewage spills into the area, but this has been massive. I quickly rushed to warn other fishermen to stop fishing,” Olivier said.
Sewage spills were taking place all along the coastline, he said. “The rivers are under incredible strain and the marine life is suffering because of it.”
Meanwhile, Asha Iyemperumal, from Merebank, said she had been coming to do prayers at the beach and was disappointed to find the beach full of debris.
“The smell is nauseating” she said.
Municipal spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said on Sunday that samples have been taken from the sea water for testing. He confirmed the beach had been cordoned off until the debris had been cleared and it was judged safe for people to swim.