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Packing for Perth because of the poo!

Published Mar 6, 2006


Packing for Perth because of the poo!

That's what Diep River resident David Arnold is considering - although the Australian capital of South Africans in exile is not necessarily part of his thinking - because of his absolute frustration at the continued sewage spillages in the river that flows literally under his driveway and his garden.

And he's outraged that the city has not placed any warning signs anywhere along the Diep River, telling residents to stay out of the water because of the serious health hazard posed by the sewage.

Arnold's property is just opposite the St Joan's Road sewerage pump station, one of 393 in the city that fail each time the power is cut.

Like all the other pump stations that are gravity fed from residential areas, sewage continues to flow into the St Joan's Road station even when its pumps are off because of electricity cuts.

When these stations are full, overflow is diverted into the stormwater system, which flow into rivers and vleis, so that it does not spill into residential areas.

In the case of the St Joan's Road pump station, it discharges raw sewage straight into the Diep River, about 50m from Arnold's front gate.

The river is canalised as it goes under the road in front of his property and then under his drive and through part of his garden.

"When the electricity fails, it takes about one-and-a-half hours, two hours at the most, before actual sewage starts overflowing," he said.

"I worked out that there's about 15 litres a second coming out, and it just carries on for the entire time that the power is out.

"There used to be fish and dragonflies in the river. This morning there's not one living organism there. There's not even a mosquito alive!"

After last week's power cuts, the city sent a team to clean the river by blasting it with high pressure hoses.

"But all they managed to do was to send the stuff under the road into the section under my property. I then had to use a hose to wash it away and I can't think how much water that used."

He said he was constantly having to warn children not to play in the river because of the health risk.

"This is completely unacceptable that warning notices haven't been put up anywhere. There used to be artisans at these pump stations, but they don't have permanent staff there anymore.

"Now everyone is just blaming it on everyone else."

Arnold, a horticulturist who was shot when he went to assist a woman who was being attacked in Rosebank, said he was seriously considering emigrating because of the sewerage problem, which was symptomatic of a much wider malaise in municipal management.

"Apartheid didn't defeat me, crime didn't defeat me, but this is defeating me.

"If anything is making me want to leave the country, this is. This is just the beginning.

"It's a far bigger problem."

City media liaison officer Charles Cooper said the St Joan's Road station was one of three major interlinking stations, and that the catchment area included several significant state properties such as Pollsmoor Prison and the Silvermine naval headquarters, as well as various city council residential areas.

Under normal circumstances, sewage problems caused by intermittent power failures could be addressed.

"However, with the recent rolling blackouts that the city has been experiencing, it was impossible to address the situation."

The Diep River canal had been flushed and cleaning operations would continue.

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