Pensioners left to clean up sewage mess

Hester and Ivan Ross alongside the huge hole left by the toilet knocked over by sewage water.

Hangberg pensioners Ivan and Hester Ross are seeking answers from the City of Cape Town for allegedly failing to act on their numerous reports of a broken sewerage drain.

As a result of an apparent failure by municipal workers to respond to four SMSes sent on Wednesday last week, June 21, the drain overflowed and completely flooded their front yard, knocking over and breaking an outside toilet in the process. A huge hole now occurs where it once stood.

Ms Ross, 61, is also seething because in her SMSes to the City’s hotline, she had stated that her 26-year-old son, who lives with the couple, suffers from tuberculosis and the filthy water flowing from the drain was affecting his breathing.

“The drain, which is supposed to be maintained by the City, comes from S Block and T Block (council housing). The drain has always blocked a few times a year,” she said.

“We could see that it was overflowing, and so I sent the SMSes. There was water everywhere. There was also water coming up from under the ground because some of the people next door to us have tried to install their own sewerage pipes.”

When municipal workers failed to arrive, community members attempted to sort the situation out themselves. However, as soon as the drain lid was lifted raw sewage, including sticks and plastic bags, came pouring out, flooding the area in front of the couple’s dwelling. “The water knocked over the toilet, breaking it. The force of the water knocked it back so much that it dented our fencing,” Ms Ross said.

Once all the sewage water had flowed out, community members set to task trying to remove it. “We had to cut up what remained of the toilet, because kids walk past here and there were sharp edges sticking out. It was dangerous. Now we are sitting without a toilet, and are having to use a bucket,” Mr Ross, 63, said. His wife said she was “very unhappy” about the situation. “The City tells us there are people on standby 24 hours a day, but where were they when I SMSed them?”

City media manager Hayley van der Woude said according to records, the City first received the complaint on Friday June 23 and issued the reference number 1012402854.

“A team was dispatched to attend to the overflow on the same day. Residents are reminded to please report faults via the call centre on 0860 103 089, or by sending an SMS to 31373, at which point a reference number will be generated,” she said.

“The team found that the overflow was due to the presence of inappropriate materials in the line. The disposal of potential blockages such as rags, general litter, and cooking oil/ fats into the sewerage system is a problem city-wide, and is responsible for the majority of overflows. In terms of the
Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law, no person may discharge substances into a municipal sewer that will interfere with the free flow of sewage. Most overflows are avoidable so long as residents follow this rule.”

She said the City had also found that there was a trend in the area of residents making illegal private connections to the sewerage line, which could overload the line and again increase the potential for overflows. “This is illegal and should please be reported to the City where found.”

With regard to the damaged toilet, she said the City was making arrangements for a temporary solution to be provided until a more permanent replacement could be installed.