Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Get rid of the stink or we’ll see you in court, Bryanfern residents warn

Bryanfern residents demand action as sewage leaks devastate Klein Jukskei River, risking health and wildlife.


Residents of Bryanfern are on the brink of legal action against the City of Joburg as sewage leaks into the Klein Jukskei River reach critical levels.

The ongoing pollution not only poses significant health risks to residents but also threatens the ecosystem along the riverbanks, endangering the fauna and flora.

Sewage flowing unabated for past 2 years

For the past two years, sewage has been flowing unabated into the Bryanfern Spruit – home to the endangered African finfoot and Cape clawless otter, among other bird species.

It is a tributary of the Jukskei River, which feeds into vital water sources like Hartbeespoort Dam and Bronkhorstspruit Rivers that have been severely polluted.

The contamination has not only led to a foul stench enveloping the area but has also prompted residents to abandon their usual walks along the river.

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Vice-chair of Bryanfern Residents Association (BFRA) Bronweyn Craig said the section of river between the N1 highway, Oxford Road in Ferndale and Main Road in Bryanston has experienced regular spills in the past five years, but the situation has worsened considerably since January.

“The smell of raw sewage regularly pollutes the valley.

“In the broader area, there are more than 80 sewage leaks between the Klein Jukskei, a tributary of the Jukskei River,” she added.

Little action taken

Despite residents’ repeated complaints, little action has been taken to address the root cause of the problem.

The residents’ association has expressed deep concern about the potential health hazards posed by the sewage leaks, citing the recent cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal as a stark reminder of the risks associated with contaminated water.

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After numerous attempts to escalate the issue with the City of Johannesburg, little progress has been made.

“We have a thread of e-mails communicating with the city and Joburg Water and it’s scary. We’ve seen what has happened in Pretoria. They need to test the water and do some investigations regarding the water quality,” Craig said.

“Failure to act swiftly and decisively not only jeopardises the well-being of local communities, but also threatens the fragile ecosystem of the Klein Jukskei.”

‘Unbearable living conditions’

A resident, Paul Hanly, described the unbearable living conditions caused by the sewage pollution along the Bryanfern Spruit.

“We are unable to eat with the windows open due to the overwhelming stench. I also find it nearly impossible to sleep through the night without being jolted awake by the indescribable smell,” he said.

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He expressed concerned about the long-term implications of the sewage contamination on his health and well-being.

Emi Koekemoer, a local councillor, has pointed out the failure of public entities like Joburg Water to adhere to service level agreements aimed at addressing sewage leaks promptly.

Despite clear protocols in place, including repair deadlines, the lack of action on the ground has only exacerbated the crisis, pushing residents to consider legal action as a last resort.

Situation compounded by financial woes

The situation is further compounded by the municipality’s financial woes, with limited resources allocated to infrastructure maintenance and repair.

Residents fear that unless urgent measures are taken, the situation will continue to deteriorate, posing significant risks.

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Environmental activist Kelebogile Grootboom said while the residents may not have a case against Joburg Water or the city, “they should alert environmental and civil activists and organisations to protect those species”.