Durban – Owners of a house in Springfield Road, Morningside, are desperate and disheartened after 11 months of wading through human excrement and toilet paper every day.
In January the Barth family woke up to a sickening stench and found sewage from a manhole in their driveway and flowing into their property.
Despite numerous attempts by the municipality and private plumbers contracted by the Barths to fix the problem, it persists.
At one stage the municipality even dug a 5m hole in Springfield Road but told the Barths it could not locate the pipe responsible for the problem.
“We can’t have people around, we cannot open our windows, we can’t eat, we have to keep the kitchen windows closed. The smell is unbelievable, it is unhygienic, I cannot describe it,” said Jack Barth.
The Independent on Saturday last month reported on a sewage problem in nearby Montpelier Road and it has been established by eThekwini Municipality that the Springfield Road blockage is the source of that stench too.
That unresolved sewage leak has been reported to the municipality by Boston Brew coffee shop owner Jonathan Gild, because the smell has affected his business in Montpelier Road.
Barth says they start every day by pouring Jeyes Fluid and other chemicals on to the mess, hosing it down and then bagging the faeces, sanitary pads, condoms, toilet paper and other things which run down the driveway and which has flooded the bottom level of their home numerous times. They also clean the manhole which causes the problem every day.
He has kept a meticulous record of every call to the municipality, the reference numbers issued, the names of the people he spoke to and the attempts he has made to get the local councillor to step in and resolve the matter.
Barth believed the problem could have been created when blocks of flats replaced the houses in the road and the infrastructure was not upgraded to deal with the increasing number of people living there.
He said the moment there was a blockage because of all the solids coming from up the road it blocked their system, caused the manhole to overflow and resulted in the mess on their property.
He said during rainy periods it was 10 times worse and Durban had just entered the rainy season.
“It flows 24 hours a day and we are getting the solids 24 hours a day including plastics of all sorts. It’s really dreadful and we have to clear the manhole every day, we’ve got to clean up these solids every day, we have to disinfect every day,” said Barth.
To date the Barths have spent more than R30 000 trying to fix the problem, he said.
In addition, the lower ground floor of their home has been flooded with sewage several times, is unusable and stinks, as the “Independent on Saturday” experienced.
The bath in that section has been permanently damaged and has to be removed and the toilet has been disconnected because both overflowed with sewage.
“From here it flows to the neighbour’s property through the municipal servitude, (then) into the stormwater in Currie Road, down into Montpelier Road and pops out in Montpelier Road near the restaurant,” said Barth. He said the municipality sent people to his neighbour who was also affected and to the coffee shop to investigate the cause.
“The only reason it is coming out at the restaurant is because the stormwater line at the restaurant is also blocked so the water has to find a way to come out. It comes from the poor maintenance of the sewer system and over-development. The sewerage system is not made to take all these buildings; it is too small,” said Barth, who is in the construction industry.
He said if the old asbestos pipes were replaced with wider PVC pipes the bigger diameter would give better flow and the roots of trees would not be able to get into the pipes as easily and cause blockages.
“They’ve dug huge holes in the roads and they can’t find their own pipes. The ineptitude is astounding. One cannot believe that we are paying people all this time to do nothing,” said Barth.
In its response to questions from the “Independent on Saturday”, the municipality said the effluent was caused by clogging of the sewerage system, which was largely caused by foreign objects.
Municipal spokesman Msawakhe Mayisela said: “Recently we have noticed a growing number of incidents where the system is clogging because of fats from restaurants, hotels, and homes. Sometimes our teams retrieve diapers, heaps of tampons, rags etc. Once it has been reported, we usually move with speed to attend to it. However, each time after resolving these cases, we usually go back to square one.”
Mayisela appealed to residents not to throw foreign objects into the system. “Every blockage of our system once reported is always prioritised, but we urge our communities to work with us,” he said.
The Independent on Saturday