Coast KZN

17 Jun 2020

Durban Mayor steps in after residents raise a stink about Umbilo Waste Water Works ‘pollution’

Zainul Dawood Picture: Pollution in the Umbilo River. Picture supplied

Durban – After several months of unpleasant smells, foamy water and unusual colourants in the water, the pollution levels of the uMbilo river have been unbearable for residents. Communities residing in Moseley, Northdene, Escombe and Hillary have been at loggerheads with the eThekwini municipality concerning the stench and state of the river.  They suspected for months that a sewer leak was seeping into the river. Residents were considering taking civil action against the city.

Residents on the uMbilo River chat group said since the complaint reached the Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) earlier this month there had been no smell for six days, including Tuesday. The group wrote to the EDTEA MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube stating their grievances in one collective.

“It has been extremely bad over the last 12 weeks. It is unbearable, and we have to go into our house, shut the windows, and wait 2 -6 hours for it to pass. It is making us sick. There are sewerage man-holes along the valley that no authorities check and a few have been discovered lately that are overflowing with sewerage straight into the river below. One was fixed, but all the sewerage is still there, and no cleanup operation has been done,” the letter stated.

“The Umbilo Waste Waterworks in the valley have claimed that there is no money in the budget to maintain the plant as it should be, that they are not using deodorizers, that the flat beds and sludge is not being dealt with properly. The River Watch has numerous accounts of foam coming from industry in Pinetown, floating down the river, which also has an effect on the working of the waterworks plantation,” the letter stated

“The sewerage and pollution in the river has killed the wildlife and makes it unbearable for us to breathe here. We live locked up in our homes, unable to enjoy our gardens. We feel sick, have headaches, and breathe raw human sewerage waste every day. It is getting worse and worse, stronger and more frequent, being every day now, throughout the day,” the letter stated.

We as a community have logged hundreds of complaints and have received reference numbers for those complaints, with nothing being followed up on those reference numbers.  Everyone we phone just passes it to the next person. We are desperate,” the letter ended.

The Umbilo River at Phillips Road in Escombe, Queensburgh. Picture: Umbilo River WhatsApp group.

On Tuesday, Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda visited the Caravan Resort in Queensburgh downstream of the waterworks. River Watch group member Pieter de Bruin reported that Kaunda saw first hand what residents were complaining about.

“They promised to keep us informed. He asked that we keep raising concerns on our WhatsApp group. It seems that something will now be done with regard to the condition and smell of the water. This is a positive step forward,” de Bruin said.

Ethekwini Mayoral spokesperson, Mluleki Mntungwa said Kaunda visited the uMbilo wastewater treatment plant and ordered city officials to fast track maintenance work in the plant.

“In the short term, the city will use chemicals to curb the arduous smell residents have complained about,” Mntungwa said.