Burst water pipe washes away river pollution

In what could be described as an act of God, residents living alongside the Diep River had their prayers answered last week when a pipe burst on Le Sueur Meadow.

A few weeks earlier they had written to ward councillor Carol Bew asking her to do something about the dreadful smell, litter and filthy water that was flowing weakly along the canal in Diep River.

Because of the drought, the river, which rises below Rhodes Drive and flows into Little Princess Vlei, has virtually ceased.

This means that any dirty water drained from road gutters and the stormwater system is no longer flushed away by strong flowing fresh water.

Instead, pollutants accumulate in the river with the result that wildlife dies and people and their dogs who paddle or drink the river water will get sick.

Larry Stokes, who lives next to a silt trap between the Main Road and railway line in Plumstead, sent pictures of dead fish and other debris to Ms Bew and other City officials.

“Sewage has been running into the river on and off for over a week. Since Friday February 26, the first dead fish appeared and then rotting fish was added to the stench of raw sewage,” he wrote.

He asked for the health department to deal with the pollution immediately and told the Bulletin this was one of countless emails he had sent and that had not received attention.

Mike Dreyer of Plumstead said the source of this dirty, polluted water was oil leaking from cars; soap suds from washing garbage bins, or cars, in roads and parking areas; paint washed from containers and brushes; used water thrown into stormwater; backwash from pools; and street cleaning. All of this end up in the stormwater system and rivers and vleis suffered as a result.

“Residents may look the other way but the smell will reach them in the end,” he said.

Another resident, Rod Weimann, said the Diep River network was an important part of the ecosystem and pollution at this scale was a disaster. “It’s important that the sources of the pollution be clearly identified and eliminated, including sewage spills,” he said. He believes building developments that have sprouted in the area have exhausted the capacity of the sewers.

“We”re privileged to still have wild animals in the area, from raptors to guinea fowl, fish and porcupine.

“These need to be protected from people and pollution. A further challenge is to clean up the debris and the role of community members cannot be ignored,” said Mr Weimann.

Then, on Wednesday March 2, Helen Burls wrote that she was not sure if water flooding along the Diep River was from the same source but it had been flowing since 5am that morning and she suspected its source was a broken main flooding the greenbelt from Le Seur Avenue, Constantia.

Ann-Gail Watson had also been watching the flood as it washed away dead fish, scum, plastic bags, plastic bottles and other detritus. She said the speed and quantity of very muddy, black water must have removed any lurking sewage.

On Wednesday March 2 John Fowkes, who lives on the edge of the Westlake wetlands on the western side of the railway line, told the Bulletin that dozens of dead carp were floating in the water.

He suspected the cause was another attack of the Koi herpes virus and not sewage spills.

The City of Cape Town warned residents not to eat the fish.

* The Bulletin repeatedly emailed Ms Bew and City officials listed in the residents’ email but no one had responded to these inquiries by the time of going to print.