/ 30 January 2008

Sewage leaks into Durban river

Heavily polluted water from a punctured sewage pipe appears to have been flowing into the Durban harbour via the Umhlatuzana River for up to nine months — reportedly the result of a bungled repair job by eThekwini council contract workers, the Mercury newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper’s investigation on Tuesday also disclosed evidence of illegal discharges of a resinous waste into council sewers in Durban’s Seaview area.

The Mercury reported that sewage was still gushing into the river on Tuesday morning despite the fact that city manager Mike Sutcliffe said on December 28 he would ”leave no stone unturned” to get to the bottom of a massive fish kill in Durban harbour over the Christmas holidays.

Staff at a nearby factory told reporters that the overflow into the Umhlatuzana River started in April last year when eThekwini council contract workers cut a hole in the pipe with oxy-acetylene torches to relieve pressure from a blocked sewage pipe near the corner of Umhlatuzana and Harden Roads in Seaview.

Neil Macleod, head of the eThekwini Water and Waste Department, said he had asked staff for a full report on the matter, but he disputed that the pipe had been leaking for nine months. He told the newspaper the problem could have arisen more recently.

Nevertheless, correspondence shown to the Mercury suggests that the municipal manager’s office had been made aware of the blockage -‒ and the possibility of an illegal stormwater to sewer pipe connection — eight months ago.

Macleod on Tuesday night confirmed to the paper that contractors had been employed to fix the problem between March and August last year and that sewage had flowed into the Umhlatuzana River for at least five months as there was nowhere else to divert the flow while the blockage was cleared.

However, he disputed that sewage had been flowing into the river for nine months.

In a statement released on January 9, Sutcliffe said an early warning system would be developed to prevent fish kills at the Durban harbour. – Sapa