Municipality could face 'criminal enforcement' for sewage spill in tourist hotspot
The Ugu district municipality has been instructed to urgently stop sewage flowing into the Uvongo river and bathing beach or it could face “criminal enforcement”.
KwaZulu-Natal economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC Ravi Pillay on Monday issued the directive after the spillage was “left to go on for many weeks”.
“This is why we have issued this directive as a form of administrative enforcement. The department has the right to pursue criminal enforcement but we hope it does not come to that.
“All the stakeholders, including the municipality and contractors on site, have assured us that the situation is being given priority and is being attended to with the urgency it deserves.
“We are satisfied with the information we have received that there is work under way to connect a temporary line which will solve the immediate problem,” he said.
Pillay embarked on the inspection after complaints from the irate public. He later convened a meeting with senior leadership of the local Ray Nkonyeni municipality and Ugu district, as well as staff from the departments of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta), water and sanitation and economic development, tourism and environmental affairs.
The municipality has been instructed to provide Pillay with a full report on the spillage by the end of the week.
“A pollution incident of this nature may result in environmental damage and degradation. Not only does this spillage infringe on the rights of residents but it may also have a negative impact on tourism which is the lifeblood of many of our coastal areas, especially on the south coast,” Pillay said.
The site visit included an inspection of the two sewage pump stations in Uvongo.
“These pump stations have been overflowing leading to sewage flowing into the river and the bathing beach. While the two pump stations are not faulty, the overflow is linked to the damage to the pipeline connecting the two pump stations to the wastewater treatment works. The damage to the asbestos-cement pipeline was discovered at Pioneer Road,” said departmental spokesperson Bheki Mbanjwa.
Pillay also visited the Pioneer Road site where work to replace the pipeline is under way.
“The MEC was given assurance that the municipality was doing all it could to stop the overflows and to limit the impact on the environment. Some of the measures already in place include using tankers to suction sewage at the two pump stations so as to limit the overflow. Officials from the municipality also said there was a move to connect a temporary line at Pioneer Road,” Mbanjwa said.
The municipality has been plagued with water woes for four years and has put the blame on acts of “sabotage” of the already ailing water supply infrastructure supplying towns along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline from Hibberdene to Harding.
The Ugu district municipality claims not to know the identity of the saboteurs while residents believe that the obvious culprits are municipal workers dismissed earlier this year for participating in an illegal strike. More than 100 workers were dismissed.
However, the SA Municipal Workers' Union claims that corrupt municipal workers are colluding with contractors to share profits from tenders.
The police have not found the “third force” that has been smashing water pipes, closing valves, draining reservoirs and setting alight pump stations, leaving hospitals, clinics, schools and homes without water for weeks on end. Municipal vehicles have been torched, electrical boxes destroyed and waterworks generators burnt.
Residents have been forced to buy bottled water to even wash dishes, use wet wipes to clean themselves and carry water from swimming pools to do laundry.