City blames “irresponsible” residents for Philippi flooding

Sewage water from a blocked drain floods the road to the library in Philippi. Photo by Siphenathi Mbozo.

Thembela Ntongana

30 September 2014

For months Philippi residents have been living with blocked drains that have flooded the roads. The City Council says the sewers are blocked because residents throw rubbish, including builders’ rubble, into the drains.

Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg said the flooding of the roads over the last few weeks in Philippi and Brown’s Farm was the result of two serious blockages in the sewer in Sheffield Road.

“There are no infrastructural problems,” he said.

“However, both blockages are the result of foreign material being dumped into the sewer.

“Sewer pipelines are designed to convey waste comprised of soft-solids suspended in liquid moving through the pipeline by means of gravity and are not designed to convey building material, rags, rope, sand, fats etc.,” said Sonnenberg.

He sent GroundUp photographs of material removed from the Philippi Sewer pipeline during the process of trying to clear the blockages.

Some of the material the City has removed from the Philippi sewer. Photo supplied by the City of Cape Town.

A member of the Philippi Youth Development Council, Patrick Nceda Tshandana, who has been following the drain issue for over a year now, disagrees. He says the drains have been flooding for longer than several weeks and accuses the City of trying to shift the blame.

“I say when we do walks to these drains they should come along and explain what they mean because they will find that is very far from the truth.”

He said at a meeting in May with the Department of Water and Sanitation residents had been promised that the drain problem would be fixed but it had got worse.

Nomawethu Mtyida, a resident of Philippi, said the drains were fixed for a short while but soon became blocked again.

She said she had called and sent SMSes to the City as required but it took weeks for authorities to respond.

“We were told in winter that it’s rain water but I have never seen rain water that smells like sewage,” said Mtyida.

“This is worrying because some of these drains are next to the library. Kids will play in this water not knowing that it’s not good for them, and their parents will have to deal with the consequences,” she added.

Sonnenberg said the city was working towards fixing the blockage in Philippi and pleaded with residents to work with the City to prevent the problem.

“The first blockage in Sheffield Road took two months to clear at a cost in excess of R1 million, while the second blockage is still in the process of being cleared. There is no engineering answer to combat sewer blockages caused by the irresponsible actions of surrounding communities. We therefore plead with our residents and the community of Philippi to please refrain from dumping inappropriate objects into the sewers as these systems are not designed to carry these items. It is only through working together that we – the City and its residents – can prevent these recurring blockages,” said Sonnenberg.