Dumping in sewers cost millions

An estimated R270 million has been spent on unblocking and cleaning sewers in the city over the last financial year.

This figure was released by the City of Cape Town yesterday (Wednesday 1 August). Council also said the persistent misuse of the sewer system causes blockages and overflowing, which poses a threat to the environment.

Furthermore, resources spent on the system could rather be used to extend service delivery, council added.

According to Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral Committee member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, those suffering the effects of an unpleasant sewer blockage are inconvenienced.

The City’s sewer reticulation system operates under tremendous stress because it is being misused, although often unknowingly by residents, she added.

The number of reported blockages and overflows has steadily risen over the previous two years – from an average of 293 per day in the 2015-’16 financial year to an average of 330 per day in the 2017-’18 financial year.

However, Limberg acknowledged the drought and water restrictions have likely contributed to the increase in reported incidents, as the water volume flowing through the system has reduced. But the primary cause remains abuse of the sewerage system.

Limberg said in terms of the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent Bylaw, no person may discharge substances into a municipal sewer that will interfere with the free flow of sewage. The sewer reticulation system is only geared to accept toilet waste, and sink, basin and bath waste.

“Common causes of blockages include rags, nappies, tampons and sanitary pads, wet wipes, condoms, general litter, building materials and the build-up of cooking fat or oil,” she explained.

“In the case of cooking oil or fats, when these substances are poured or flushed down your sink or drain, they harden and build up on the inside of the sewer pipes and act like glue, attracting rags, hair, paper and other debris.”

The hardness of the blockages can also make it difficult to clean.

Limberg advised residents to let grease cool and harden in the pan and dispose of it in the kitchen bin.

According to Limberg there’s often an incorrect perception that recurring sewer overflows are as a result of faulty pipes or the lack of sewer maintenance. “I can assure you that this is hardly ever the case,” she stated.

“The City cannot take up this challenge on its own. We call on our residents to help us to overcome this problem. We cannot do it without you.”

Sewer overflows can be caused by stormwater entering the sewerage system, either as a result of illegal cross-connections on private properties or missing manhole covers.

The extra volume from stormwater flow during heavy rainfall can sometimes exceed the capacity of the pipes and leads to, or exacerbates, overflows.

The City, therefore, calls on residents to check that the stormwater from their property does not drain into the sewers, but into the stormwater system, and to take corrective action if necessary.

Missing or stolen manhole covers can also increase the chances of blockages and overflows, as they can act like a magnet for illegal dumping and litter.

Residents are urged to report missing manhole covers.V Sewer overflows, blockages and those who transgress the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent Bylaw can be reported by phoning the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089, sending an SMS to 31373 or a Whats-App message to 063 407 3699.V Complaints can also be logged by sending an email to water@capetown.gov.za.