MLM, DEA and GSDM turns blind eye to environmental pollution

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GK CRONJE

22 September 2020

GSDM acknowledged receipt of the enquiry, but yet again failed to submit a reply. Mr. Zwane, MLM spokesman stated via telephonic conversation that the issue is being investigated by the technical team. However, no further information, or what plans of environmental reform are, have been made known. A copy of the information, photos and videos have also been submitted to Carte Blanche, and response is awaited.

Residents and businesses familiar with the ongoing sewage spillage in the vicinity of Oosthuizen Street is in for a even bigger shock. While Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM) has replaced a section of sewerage line, the damage is already done, and raw sewage continues to pollute the environment and underground water sources. Residents of Wesselton Extension 5 have to make do with the raw sewage flowing past their dwellings, along with a wide range of garbage, animal carcasses and other debris floating in the sewage. The looming summer rain season will surely make matters exponentially worse, as many of the storm drains in Ermelo are either clogged, or confusingly, connects with residential and business sewerage lines. The spillage, which has been ongoing since 2016, have to date, seen no tangible action from authorities, and have been polluting the environment on a unprecedented scale for four consecutive years. When the blockage and overflow was initially brought to the attention of MLM in mid-2016, the iron should have been struck while it was hot, and the issue would have been resolved. Instead, the spillage was left to be, much to the dismay of surrounding businesses, who suffer on a daily basis with immense stench.

In May 2018, both MLM and Gert Sibande District Municipality (GSDM) was informed of the ongoing spillage, to which no response was received from either institution. Between 2018 and 2019, MLM teams were reportedly spotted unblocked the line thrice, unfortunately haphazardly so. By ignoring the larger issue of obstructions further along the sewerage line, as well as the origin of the offending objects lodged in the line, continued spilling is experienced within mere days after apparent unblocking. To date, attempts to involve COGTA in resolving this issue has also yielded no results. Birds, other wildlife and stray cattle feasts on the daily smorgasbord of excrement gushing from the sewerage lines, and cattle herders plod through the soggy marsh of sewage. The large-scale environmental contamination 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. 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. 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. The Tribune has, in light of the unimaginable environmental impact, approached, amongst others, AfriForum, VF Plus, Ermelo Business Association and Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries (DEA) formerly the Department of Environmental Affairs, for input and potential solutions. Worryingly, no parties submitted replies at the time of publication.

GSDM acknowledged receipt of the enquiry, but yet again failed to submit a reply. Mr. Zwane, MLM spokesman stated via telephonic conversation that the issue is being investigated by the technical team. However, no further information, or what plans of environmental reform are, have been made known. A copy of the information, photos and videos have also been submitted to Carte Blanche, and response is awaited. After numerous attempts, the Tribune managed to obtain a contact e-mail for an official at the DEA supposedly responsible for tending to such issues. The e-mail address supplied, however, returned an error. Further attempts to contact the DEA has resulted in being sent from one phone extension to another, ultimately leading to nowhere.

To see a video footage of the overflow and the devastating effect it has had on the environment, videos are available on our Facebook page, Tribune Ermelo.

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