4-Year long raw sewage overflow

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GK CRONJE

28 July 2020

Aside from the immense health risks this sewage overflow poses, the issue is further aggravated by the fact that the surrounding businesses suffer loss in clientele due to the constant, unbearable stench that lingers in the air, as one of the overflows is but mere meters from their shopfronts. At the time of going to print, both GSDM and MLM once again ignored the enquiry submitted

In May 2018, the Tribune reported on a persistent sewerage network issue in a field adjacent to Oosthuizen Street, where raw sewage flows freely. At the time of reporting, the issue had already been ongoing for nearly a year. It is evident that this sewerage line is subject to a major unresolved blockage. In the elapsed timeline, surrounding businesses stated that Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM) had reportedly unblocked the line thrice, unfortunately haphazardly so, with continued spilling experienced within mere days after apparent unblocking. At the time, the issue was reported to MLM, Gert Sibande District Municipality (GSDM) and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), which yielded no results. Fast forward to July 2020, and the overflow is still ongoing. Birds, other wildlife and stray cattle feasts on the daily smorgasbord of excrement gushing from the sewerage lines, and residents who takes shortcuts to their homes across this field has to trudge through the soggy soil.

To be frank, this ongoing overflow holds immense health risks to animals, and especially residents, facing the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. While authorities preach about hygiene, cleanliness and sanitizing, this overflow is a slap in the face of the community. Sewage contains a wide variety of dissolved and suspended impurities, and domestic sewage is also very likely to contain disease-causing microbes. The surrounding water sources that this massive pool and overflow of sewage in turn pollutes has a far-reaching impact.

Sewage-contaminated water causes eutrophication, which is the increase in concentration of chemical elements required for life. The nitrates, phosphates, and organic matter found in human waste serves as a food for algae and bacteria. This causes these organisms to overpopulate to the point where they use up most of the dissolved oxygen that is naturally found in water, making it difficult for other organisms in this aquatic environment to live. Phosphates are also found in soaps and detergents, but there are other household products that we use everyday that can be toxic to many animals and humans if they are dumped directly into a water body. Residents who have to traverse this much, and stray cattle who return home to their owners, contaminated, poses a major risk of causing illness such as e-coli, diarrhea and hepatitis A, due to bacteria and viruses present in sewage effluent. Gastrointestinal disorders have been linked to sewage pollution, with viruses implicated as the cause. When toxic substances enter a body of water, they will be dissolved, become suspended in water or get deposited on the bed of the water body. The resulting water pollution causes the quality of the water to deteriorate, and affects aquatic ecosystems. Pollutants can also seep down and affect groundwater deposits, potentially ending up in the taps of residents.

Aside from the immense health risks this sewage overflow poses, the issue is further aggravated by the fact that the surrounding businesses suffer loss in clientele due to the constant, unbearable stench that lingers in the air, as one of the overflows is but mere meters from their shopfronts. At the time of going to print, both GSDM and MLM once again ignored the enquiry submitted by the Tribune. Attempts to contact the Department of Environmental Affairs has proved fruitless, and the spokesman for the Mpumalanga division ignored submitted enquiries. To see a video footage of the overflow and the devastating effect it has had on the environment, a video is available on our Facebook page. You may also view more photos of the overflow on our Facebook page, Tribune Ermelo.

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