WATCH | Raw sewage flows into Ohlanga River as Umhlanga beaches remain shut
ActionSA in KwaZulu-Natal has accused Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda of misleading the public about the “true state” of the Ohlange sewage pump station, which has seen Umhlanga Beach closed for long periods because of sewage pollution.
Last week eThekwini municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the station north of the city had been commissioned and the overflow into the Ohlanga River had stopped.
Two weeks ago the Sunday Times reported Durban’s sewage pollution crisis had turned the popular seaside town of Umhlanga into an “undesirable” holiday destination, projected to lose R25m a day if its beaches didn't open during the peak summer season.
The condition of the beach resulted in a lag in hotel bookings for the festive season, leaving establishments concerned about whether they would see an uptick in reservations.
Mayisela said teams had worked to ensure the pump station was back online for the festive season.
Kaunda said recently the opening of Umhlanga beaches was imminent owing to satisfactory water-quality readings and the long-awaited functionality of the Ohlange sewage pump station.
But ActionSA’s chair in KwaZulu-Natal, Zwakele Mncwango, said a site visit on Monday showed that while the pump station had been fixed “it is not operational as the reticulation system around the pump station remains broken”.
“A few metres away from the pump station sits a sewer drain where a flood of raw sewage continues to spew unceasingly into the Ohlanga River, which feeds into beaches in Umhlanga.”
Mncwango said based on the amount of sewage “it is inconceivable that the Umhlanga beaches will be open any time soon”.
“While recent readings of E coli at the Umhlanga beaches have been low, a change in the current from south to north or north to south, can lead to E coli changing to dangerous levels in a short period of time. The health of residents, tourists and employees of the city must take priority.”
He accused the municipality of “cutting corners” in its repair work and “not conducting proper inspections on the infrastructure before and after they have repaired it to be sure that the pump station is fully functional, those reticulation systems are operational and sewage drains are not overflowing”.
This comes as the DA challenged Kaunda to be the first citizen to join them on December 2 for a dip in the Indian Ocean.
DA eThekwini councillor Nicole Bollman said: “You swim, we’ll swim, Mr Mayor. If the mayor is as confident as he is, we welcome him to take the plunge and go for a swim. We are right behind you, Mr Mayor.”
She said the party was concerned about Kaunda's statement that the opening of Umhlanga beaches was imminent.
“Oversight visits to various ‘hotspots’ along the Ohlanga River proved again that there was a consistent flow of raw sewage into the river as has been the case since post the April flood, completely bypassing the newly commissioned pump station a mere 250m up the river, due to alleged blockages in the system, resulting in zero flow into the pump station,” said Bollman.
“Our concern is that failure to consider the resolution and repair of the sewer reticulation system in its entirety, from source to the wastewater treatment plant in Phoenix, will result in an ecological and health catastrophe to the unassuming bather coming to our shores for the festive season, placing both them and professional lifeguards at risk.”
The municipality did not immediately respond to a TimesLIVE request for comment.
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