SEWAGE CRISIS: A glimpse of a honey sucking truck pouring raw sewage at a waste water treatment works, which Ilinge residents invited DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga to see on Wednesday Video: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA
An unbearable stench greeted a team of DA officials, led by provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga, in Ilinge last Wednesday.
The smell came from a waste water treatment works pond system about 200 metres from residential houses.
Bhanga, Enoch Mgijima constituency leader and MPL Jane Cowley and DA EC Shadow MEC for finance and MPL Retief Odendaal were in Enoch Mgijima to establish rapid response committees to address what they termed ‘a total collapse of water and sanitation services’ provided by the Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM). The team began their visit in Cradock before proceeding to Gwatyu which had water issues and they then headed for Ilinge and Komani.
This happened after the community members led Bhanga to the unfenced pond system in which they said four bodies had been discovered in past years . Some were dumped while another casualty had been a child who slipped while playing and drowned.
Ilinge resident Vuyisile Mpolo said: “The case dockets about the bodies discovered in the sewage dam were filed at the Ilinge police station. This pond has been here since 1985. Residents made numerous appeals to Chris Hani District Municipality to at least install a fence around the pool for the sake of the residents’ safety.”
One of the reasons Mpolo said they needed a fence was that livestock were often found drinking in the pond and that some of them had drowned. The hides visible near the edge of the dam bore out his words.
Coincidentally, in the middle of the visit a sewage truck arrived to offload sewage into the pond system. While the sewage was gushing out, it was more concerning to see the truck operators standing near the sewage without wearing protective clothing. They wore cloth face masks which might not have been worn had it not been for the pandemic.
Bhanga reacted by saying: “I have not experienced such a painful situation before. These are black people doing this to black people. We must begin to talk about the incompetency of certain black people who drag people down to live under such poor, unhealthy conditions. This is not acceptable.
“When we said we wanted freedom we did not mean this. Making people live in a swimming pool of sewage is dehumanising. I could not take it (the smell). I am going to take this up with the minister of water and sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, to intervene urgently.
“People cannot wear suits and nice dresses with lipstick in parliament while the people of Ilinge continue to live in such an appalling environment.”
He said people deserved better service than they were receiving at the moment.
“I am sick and tired of Chris Hani Municipality – they cannot do anything properly. I have named Enoch Mgijima and Inxuba Yethemba local municipalities ‘sewage towns’. The solution is simple – maintenance of the underground infrastructure and investing in equipment to deal with it. It worries me that there is not even an intention to try and change the situation.”
Should the sewage crisis continue to be neglected he said it would result in an outbreak of disease which would affect Enoch Mgijima and Cradock people, possibly spreading throughout the Eastern Cape.
“I will raise the issue of lack of maintenance with the minister. I am so glad that I came here because as a leader you have to witness people’s issues first hand. I hope Oscar Mabuyane will see this and understand that what we have seen here is not the Eastern Cape we want. The Eastern Cape we want is the one where people are treated with dignity. They have broken everything in this province.”
CHDM spokesperson Thobeka Mqamelo said: “The treatment works was built a while back and within an allowable distance from the residential area, but due to population growth this saw the residential area encroaching towards the ponds. As per the National Environmental Management Act and the Water Services Act, the location of any waste water treatment plant should be as far as practical from the dwellings which will possibly be built within the life of the plant.”
Mqamelo said fencing for treatment works was being attended to and that a number of these had been completed in Whittlesea, Middelburg and Cradock.
Concerning the workers operating on site without protective clothing she said the matter would be dealt with internally as CHDM provides protective gear.
She said the raw sewage dumped in the area came from Ilinge households which used septic tanks which were frequently emptied by CHDM’s ‘honeysuckers.’ “The sewage that is taken from the houses is not dumped, but appropriately disposed of into the waste treatment pond.”
In response to Bhanga’s statement that CHDM was “negligent and useless” when it come to sewage matters in Cradock and Enoch Mgijima she said: ”Water and sanitation services are our primary responsibility and therefore any matter that involves the services is prioritised. We always deploy the required services when called for. We have successfully undertaken refurbishment of waste water treatment works in Cradock.
“Komani waste water treatment works and Komani treatment works have also been prioritised for repairs and refurbishment to ensure uninterrupted service provision.
“Komani water treatment works requires urgent repairs and refurbishment as the plant’s components in their current state cannot cope with the required demand. The department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs has given approval for the reprioritisation of municipal infrastructure grant projects with an estimated cost of R25. 058, 769.”