Durban - Some residents in Merebank can no longer sit outside their homes or leave their windows open due to a long-standing sewer stench in the area.
The source of the odour is believed to be from the Southern Waste Water Treatment Works (SWWTW).
On Saturday, more than 80 residents protested at the corner of Badulla and Tara roads. They said the smell had intensified over the past 10 months.
Ivan Moses, the former chairperson of the Merebank Residents’ Association, said: “For years, the city has been polluting the area. It stinks like someone with a really bad stomach went to the toilet. It is unacceptable that we have to live like this. It makes you want to gag."
Moses, who lives about 50m from the plant, said the stench affected lower, upper and central Merebank.
“We are like prisoners in our own homes. We have to close our windows and doors to keep the smell out. Some of us don't have the luxury of air conditioners and then we have to contend with the heat as well."
Moses has two children who live with him when they are not with their mom on the Bluff.
He said the odour has kept his children away.
"My elder daughter is asthmatic and the smell is not good for her health. She calls beforehand to ask if there is still a smell and if there is, she prefers not to visit."
He said the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and residents had complained to the city.
“We are told the pumps are not working and that there are not enough deodorisers. We are fed up."
Devan Govender, 46, a businessman and resident, lives about 1km away from the treatment plant. He said the odour was a problem early in the morning, when his family had breakfast and the children were getting ready for school, or towards the afternoon.
“My guess is that the staff are not manning the tanks and it gets overfilled."
Rugs Naidoo, 66, a fellow resident, said: “It gets so bad that we can’t have a meal. In summer, we have to bear with the heat and the smell. The city needs qualified people at the helm. This can’t go on for any longer.”
Bongani Mthembu, the air quality officer at SDCEA, said residents faced a triple dose of smells from the SWWTW plant; petrochemical industries and a paper mill.
“This is unfair and unacceptable… Just when you are about to have lunch or supper, the smells enter through the doors and windows. This happens every day, seven days a week.”
The SDCEA said another picket would take place on Saturday. More would held until a solution was found.
The city did not comment at the time of publication.