Pollution plagues Keyser River

Sewage was spilling from this manhole into the Keyser River last Friday.

A Westlake Village community leader is threatening to take the City to court for not cleaning along the Keyser River, near the community, while downstream, he says, is cleaned regularly

Tony Jantjies, said pollution – including frequent sewage spills – in the Keyser River was the making of city officials who had failed to act.

“This matter of reporting the status of the river fell on deaf ears,” he said.

His frustration was echoed at an online “town hall” meeting hosted by the branch chairperson for the DA in Ward 71, Francis Lombard, on Wednesday July 7.

Chairperson of the Kirstenhof and Environs Residents Association (KERA), Carolynne Franklin, said she had lodged a complaint of sewage smells on the eastern side of the M3 on Thursday July 1 but, to date, nothing had been done.

Tokai Residents Association chairman Don Kourie said they had alerted the City to the deterioration of the sewage infrastructure in the area.

Mr Jantjies, who is the outgoing chairman of the Kirstenhof Community Police Forum, said the Keyser was the breeding ground for the endangered western leopard toad.

“We have a sewage drain constantly flowing into the river. Imagine we eat the fish that comes from the sea where the river flows out into,” said Mr Jantjies. The Bulletin has been writing about this sewer since 2009.

Ward councillor Penny East places the blame on Pollsmoor prison and irresponsible dumping by the Westlake community. “It (Westlake) is overpopulated and was designed for two to three thousand people but presently has between 14 000 to 16 000 people,” said Ms East.

The Bulletin visited the area last Friday and found sewage spilling from a manhole into the Keyser River, next to the Westlake Primary School.

Mr Jantjies said the sewage drain under the wooden bridge leading to Steenberg Village was also a worry as was the waste outlet pipe into the river.

Steenberg Village spokeswoman Toscha Goetz said the centre had a formal, fully compliant stormwater and waste management system. “We are not aware of the issues raised but will gladly investigate if substantive evidence is brought to our attention,” said Ms Goetz.

The Bulletin sent questions to the City’s media office on Thursday July 8, but it did not respond by time of publication. Pollsmoor prison spokesperson Lewies Davids also failed to respond to questions.

However, Rudolf van Jaarsveldt, spokesman for the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, answered questions about follow-up measures taken after the province’s environmental inspectors, or “Green Scorpions”, gave notice, in November last year, to the City and Pollsmoor to clean up their act, or be fined (”Prison sewage leaks into estuary and river,“ Bulletin November 12, 2020).

An inspection at Pollsmoor, he said, had found that an irrigation dam there had been infested with water hyacinth and sludge due to poor maintenance. Further investigation had found that sewage entering the dam from broken municipal sewer pipes was to blame for the sludge.

The City had since fixed the sewer pipes including the manholes and done integrity testing and surveillance along the line, he said.

No further signs or reports of sewage pollution had been observed or reported on to date, he added.

At the “town hall” meeting, Ms Lombard suggested Ms East host a report-back meeting with the appropriate City officials.

Dumping in the Keyser River wetland at Steenberg Village.
An outlet pipe from Steenberg Village leading into the Westlake wetland.
A culvert downstream of Pollsmoor dam and the leaking sewer in Westlake Village.
The Keyser is the breeding ground for the endangered western leopard toad.
The Keyser River in Westlake Village is a dumping ground for waste.
Kirstenhof and Environs Residents Association chairperson Carolynne Franklin lodged a complaint of sewage smells on Thursday July 1.