/ 14 August 2023

Faeces again floods pump station near Umhlanga

Ohlanga Treatment Plant Durban

eThekwini Municipality has launched a clean-up operation at the Ohlange wastewater pump station after a video showing the premises swamped with faeces went viral on social media.

Peter Graham, owner of the Facebook page Peter’s Post, visited the Ohlange pump station in Blackburn with ActionSA eThekwini caucus leader Alan Beesley last week, where he filmed the filthy state of affairs.

The faulty pump station has previously been the source of raw sewage that has washed into the Ohlange River and into the sea at Umhlanga, causing repeated beach closures due to high levels of E.Coli in the water in recent months, and hurting tourism.

According to a statement by eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, the pump station was repaired in November 2022 after it was damaged during floods in April that year.

However, when Graham visited the pump station last week, he found that just one pump was installed on the site and it was battling to cope with the volume.

“I am here at the famous Ohlange fixed power station — this is where 30 million litres of raw sewage was being pumped into the ocean. Yesterday, there was a massive spill … this is raw untreated s*** I am walking through. It all ended up in the river,” Graham said in the video, highlighting the extent of the sewage overflow.

“The stench here is, like, out of the movies. I am slipping; the stench here is beyond belief,” he said.

Walking into the pump station, Graham was not able to touch the handrail to walk downstairs as it had been contaminated with raw faeces.

“Here is the problem. Where is the other pump? How can this effectively brand-new sewage pump station be reduced to one immersible pump? This poor pump is doing its best,” he said.

However, he said in sewage reticulation it was essential to have a redundancy system in place — the intentional duplication of critical components or functions to increase reliability of the system.

“Unfortunately, here at Ohlange, there is no redundancy in place. If this pump fails … this s*** is literally going to end up in the Ohlange River,” he said.

Responding to the viral video, eThekwini Municipality said in a statement that a clean-up operation is underway at the Ohlange station “in preparation for the reinstallation of one of the duty pumps that required repairs due to a mechanical fault”.

“The pump station has been operational since December last year after it was commissioned following flood damage. New machinery, including a control panel, pumps and a standby generator were installed to avoid overflows during load-shedding,” the council said.

It said in addition to reinstalling the repaired broken pump, two new pumps and a new mechanical control centre are being installed at the old Ohlange wastewater pump station.

“Once the installations are completed, both pump stations will be running, using four pumps.”

Repairs to other infrastructural damage, such as pipelines that were washed away and blockages, are being addressed around the city. In some areas, most of the blockages, which result in major overflows, are due to vandalism and the misuse of the sewer system, the city said.

“The frequency with which these are occurring is a concern for the city. We will continue to educate the public about the effects of disposing foreign objects into sanitation infrastructure,” it added.