Londiwe Xulu
4 minute read
18 Jul 2022

Residents complain of smell from Mkondeni Spruit

Londiwe Xulu

Residents said they could not open their windows or sit outside their house anymore because of the stench from the stream.

The Mkondeni Spruit after it turned red due to blockages back in May

Residents living near the Mkondeni Spruit said the toxic smell and health hazard emanating from the raw sewage and chemicals regularly dumped in the stream have become unbearable for them.

Mkondeni Spruit runs through the heart of the Mkondeni industrial area as well as neighbouring residential areas.

One of the residents, Roy Smith, said there were chemicals and raw sewage in the stream behind their yard. He said they could not open their windows or sit outside their house anymore because of the stench from the stream.

The smell is unbearable and we can’t even enjoy being outside our house. We also can’t let our dog play outside because it goes to the stream and has once had an infection. There is no animal life in the river anymore and this is quite devastating

He said they suffered from streaming noses and eyes because of the chemicals dumped in the river. He said they regularly notice hundreds of litres of toxic chemicals dumped in the river, especially in the afternoons. Smith alleged there were factories that were pumping grey water and sewage straight into the Mkondeni Spruit, destroying animal and plant life in the river.

“The sewage is always an issue. The river banks have been [neglected] over the years [and have deteriorated]. They were previously well looked after but over the years it stopped and all the effort to get it sorted did not result in anything,” said Smith.

He added that properties on the banks of the river were at the lowest point for the sewage drainage systems and when it rained, the sewage would lift the lids and discharge into the river. “That has now been overtaken by a bigger problem of the actual raw sewage being pumped into the river by businesses that had not constructed their sewage systems correctly. This is really not a healthy situation at all,” said Smith.

ALSO READ | Sewer overflow turns Mkondeni Spruit in Pietermaritzburg red

In May, Msunduzi Municipality confirmed there was a sewer overflow into the Mkondeni Spruit due to blockages. This was after residents noticed the water turning red in colour and questioned whether it was the result of chemical dumping into the stream. The municipality, however, said the red colour residents were seeing in the stream was not hazardous.

Ward councillor Edith Elliott said pollution of the Mkondeni Spruit has become an increasing problem over the years as industrial platforms have extended over their boundaries and altered the course of the Mkondeni spruit. “This has brought the original sewer line into the direct path of the spruit and over the years has finally left sewer ports and sections of the pipeline dangling dangerously either on the spruit banks or actually in the spruit itself.

When sewers have become blocked, which they regularly do, they have been spilling their contents into the spruit. This has given rise to episodes of pollution as sewage and all of the run-off or production water from industrial processes have entered the spruit

She added the threat of pollution has finally become critical and catastrophic. During the floods in January and April, she said, six lengths of sewer line were washed away when the Mkondeni Spruit flooded, causing the current massive sewage pollution and unbearable smell. Elliott said when they became aware of the sewage spill and pollution in the river, she, the residents of Hayfields who were also affected and Ward 36 councillor Doug Roberts established that an application was immediately made for Disaster Relief funds.

She said the funds were received in June and that new pipes were ordered. The plan is to reroute the sewer system away from the Mkondeni Spruit, she added. “At this stage I have no update on whether the pipes have arrived, when work on rerouting the sewer line will begin nor when it will be completed, but both my colleague and I are pushing for answers and will continue to do all I can to support and promote a speedy solution to this problem,” said Elliott.

She said the pollution is catastrophic for the wildlife and ecology of the river, a health hazard for residents and all those living along this spruit and the Msunduzi River, into which this spruit flows. The pollution also affects residents living along the Msunduzi River.

As the right to clean and safe water is a basic human right this is a catastrophe and I will be doing all I can to bring this problem to the notice of the authorities and to push and support a speedy solution

The spokesperson for Msunduzi Municipality, Ntobeko Mkhize, said odours emanating from sewage contain sulphides and other compounds. “It must be noted that odour emissions from discharges of effluent from sewer lines and manholes will exacerbate during the current inversions experienced during the winter months,” said Mkhize. She added a recycler in Mkondeni was recently charged for illegal burning and the City’s environmental health unit had investigated similar incidents within the area.