Sewage spillage has been overflowing into a river in Mpumalanga for the past four years, sparking fears by local residents that they might contract waterborne diseases.
Residents of Silobela in Carolina Township say the spillage goes straight to the local river that previously served as a source of clean water. They say they have been suffering since the Bosmanspruit Dam started bein contaminated five years ago because the water is no longer suitable for human consumption.
This comes as the death toll in the Hammanskraal cholera outbreak in Gauteng increased to 24, while similar waterborne diseases have been reported in the Free State. Some letters seen by African Times revealed that the community tried in vain to compel the local Chief Alber Luthuli, the Mpumalanga provincial government and other relevant stakeholders to address the problem.
One of the recent letters that were directed to the South African parliament, the National Assembly, stated: “We have numerous of complaints to various stakeholders of the Chief Albert Luthuli municipality from the disaster management, environmental officer, municipal managers complaining about the waste sanitation reservoir where it is diverted by naughty sanitation team straight to the Bosmanspruit dam that used to supply clean water to the residents of Carolina.”
“The river is contaminated with waste and pampers. We are afraid that waterborne diseases may occur due to this negligence by the municipality. Different emails have been sent but no response. Even during the Mayoral Imbizo on 02 March 2023, the same complaints were delivered to the mayoral team but still there is no response.”
One of the concerned residents, Edward Shabangu said the only way to deal with the situation was to make sure that the sewer main hole is properly maintained and also to fix the sewer pump reservoir.
Shabangu said the municipality has neglected the sewer spillage that runs straight to the river. He said when they reported the matter to the municipality they were told that the crisis is caused by vandalism of the property and theft.
The sewage spillage crisis dates back approximately four years ago. Last year community members took it upon themselves to fix some of the leaking sewage pipelines.
Another community member, Makhaza Ntuli, said when it rains the dirt comes out of the blocked or broken sewage pipelines. It then flows to the nearby river, which is used by community members for their house chores.
“This problem has been existing for so many years but the municipality is not assisting us at all. We can’t drink the water from the river fearing that it might be contaminated, we only use it for laundry and other related things. We survive with the water from the boreholes situated within the local churches,” said Ntuli,
Ntuli said the entire Carolina was experiencing a sewage spillage crisis. In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historical resolution recognizing, “the rights to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”
Chief Albert Luthuli municipality spokesperson, Thapelo Phetla, has conceded that some parts of Carolina had a sewage spillage problem.
“At Silobela section and another part of Carolina, there are many houses that were connected illegally on the sewage networks, and that resulted in recurring spillages. We also identified that there were households that were not connected to the sewer grid system,” Phetla said.
Phetla said after connecting the houses to the grid the flow rate to the pump station (treatment works) increased the volume of waste that needs to be treated, resulting in the pump station not functioning efficiently.
“Residents are also requested to avoid illegal connections and desist from deposition of foreign objects on the municipal sewer infrastructure as it affects the sanitation system.”
Meanwhile, the report released by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in October last year revealed that many communities in South Africa relied on freshwater surface resources such as rivers and dams for their daily supply of water. In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a historical resolution recognising, “the rights to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”
Caption: Caroline residents trying to fix broken sewage pipeline.
Caption: Bosmanspruit Dam is polluted with sewage spillage posing a health hazard to the local communities.