Sewage spill taken to sub-council

Pauline Kirkham, Jetta Pienaar and Trevor Hay examine a manhole that residents blame for spewing sewage into Chantecler Lane after heavy rains.

Residents in the Airlie part of Constantia say they have had enough of sewage being spewed into a cul-de-sac there after heavy rains.

They raised the issued at the sub-council meeting on Wednesday June 22.

Retired engineer Trevor Hay, who lives in Chantecler Lane, said that every winter, raw sewage flowed into the road and then into a water channel that leads into Pagasvlei Stroom. “This will surely cause environmental problems downstream,“ he said.

Mr Hay’s neighbour, Pauline Kirkham, complained about the smell. “And vehicles pass up and down the lane spreading the faeces, which can’t be healthy,” she said.

Council had never sanitised the road or the stream after sewage spills, despite repeated requests for this from residents, said Mr Hay.

Jetta Pienaar, who lives across the lane from Mr Hay, said poo mixed with litter floated in the road.

At the sub-council meeting, Mr Hay presented each councillor with a 19-page timeline of his interactions with City officials, dating back to May 2018, when he sent an email about the manhole in Chantecler Lane “spewing a vast amount of raw sewage into the road”. He had received no response until February 2019 when he had been asked for further details. A maintenance team had then come out and used drain rods, but it had made no difference, said Mr Hay.

In May 2020, when the sewer overflowed again, Mr Hay emailed the former sub-council chairman, Ian Iversen, former councillor Liz Brunette and the former mayor, Dan Plato, requesting an on-site meeting. He also reported the overflow telephonically and was told there was a 24-hour turnaround.

“By which time we will be swimming in sewage,” Mr Hay wrote in email correspondence to Ms Brunette and sub-council manager Richard White.

In mid-May, 2020, Mr White visited the site and later informed Mr Hay that a City maintenance team would clear the drain and install a camera to see what the issue was. At the same time, Mr Hay requested that he be allowed to address the sub-council.

In May 2021, Mr Hay again informed the City that the manhole was overflowing and that residents feared it was a health hazard. He requested another on-site meeting.

Early in July, Mr Hay wrote to officials saying the overflowing sewer was “unbearable and in need of urgent attention”. Mr Hay said an on-site meeting took place on July 6, 2021 with Ms Brunette, Mr White and three officials from a local municipal sanitation depot.

Mr Hay said promises were made for smoke detection, relining the pipe and cameras. All that was to have taken place by the end of August 2021, but Mr Hay said it became apparent that the promises were a “pipe dream”.

In February this year, Mr Hay included the new councillor, Emile Langenhoven, in email correspondence, letting him know that the camera inspection, smoke detection and relining the sewer had not taken place.

On Tuesday June 7, Mr Hay sent a further email to mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, sub-council chairwoman Xanthea Limberg and Mr Langenhoven to say the only work done on the drain was to unblock it and this has not alleviated the problem. “I never reported a blocked drain. What a waste of City manpower…,” he said in his email.

In an email to Mr Hay on Friday June 17, Mr White said there were no funds to complete the lining of the sewer.

At the sub-council meeting, Mr Langenhoven said that when an issue was elevated to the mayor, he was not allowed to get involved, but he would do so in this case.

All service requests should be logged so that reference numbers were generated, he said. “The reference number is how we, the ward councillors, hold the city administration accountable for service delivery. Without it, we’re not able to track work that has not been completed,” said Mr Langenhoven.

“Service requests are sometimes closed when there is a hand-over to another department. When this occurs, the original reference number is set to ‘closed’ and a new one created for the referral to the correct department. Unfortunately, the system currently does not inform the resident that the referral has occurred. This has been identified as a serious problem in the e-services system, and the information systems and technology department is currently upgrading the system to make sure that service requests are not set to ‘closed’ until the work is actually complete.”

In response to questions from the Bulletin, mayoral committee member for water Zahid Badroodien said the water and sanitation department did camera inspections to assist with root removal as part of its stormwater ingress location checks. Smoke detection testing was only done when there was no rain and the sewer system was no under pressure.

Smoke detection technology involves pumping smoke into the sewerage system to reveal where stormwater could be getting into the system, he said.

He did not say when work would be done in Chantecler Lane.