Sewage has been leaking into the Gcuwa River near Butterworth for more than a year, after damage to the pump mechanism caused by illegal electricity connections.
Amathole District Municipality spokesperson Siyabulela Makunga confirmed that two sewage pump stations in Butterworth were “spilling continuously” into the river.
According to Makunga “the community have connected illegally to the incoming electricity supply, damaging the cables and pumps”. Eskom had agreed to move the transformer at one of the pump stations, but had not done so.
But Eastern Cape Eskom spokesperson Ntombekhaya Mafumbatha said she did not have evidence that the municipality had reported the problem. “Leaking sewage is urgent and needs to be fixed very quickly because it affects many things,” she said.
The leakage started at the beginning of 2016. Residents say the matter was reported to the councillor, but nothing was done.
GroundUp visited the area and saw it was strewn with human waste, nappies and condoms.
Residents of Santini informal settlement complain about the stench.
Livestock owners in the area say the cows are drinking the dirty river water and they worry that it affects the milk. A headman and farmer from a nearby area, Makhaya Fesi, 66, said he had stopped drinking his cow’s milk after he noticed that it was thick. He said the milk went back to normal after he started keeping the cow in the kraal and only gave it fresh water to drink.
He said farmers had stopped eating the intestines from their livestock for fear of contamination and were keeping their cattle away from the river.
An informal settlement resident, who asked not to be named, told GroundUp that owners of a tavern had made an illegal electricity connection. “Now we are suffering because of the people who are stealing electricity. The situation is very bad here. We can’t invite visitors.”
“It’s been like this since the beginning of 2016 … We live in shacks, so no one cares about us,” she said.
New ward Councillor Zolani Siyo said he was not aware of the leak and would report the problem.
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