Even more heavy rains will hit parts of the province soon. Just weeks ago unrelenting showers left communities without power and vital infrastructure. The City of Cape Town’s Water and Sanitation Directorate is now urging residents to help prevent sewer overflows.
While wastewater facilities try to manage capacity, obstructions and extreme cases can lead to overflows. In these instances, wastewater can run through a manhole, a toilet, sink or drain. This can then seep into the environment, a business or a house.
Why do sewers overflow?
Sewer systems are built to collect and contain all the sewage that flows into it. But occasional overflows are expect. Frequent over spills, however, means there is a fault in the system.
Problems that can cause overflows
- too much rainfall (or snowfall) that seeps through the ground into leaky sanitary sewers
- build up of fats, solids and oils and greases in the wastewater collection system. This blocks water flow
- broken, blocked or cracked pipes or other equipment
- power failures that keep the system functioning
- when sewers are not installed correctly or maintained
The Directorate says manhole cover theft is a major reason behind sewer overflows. The round-shaped manhole covers help control the flow of sewage through sewer pipes, and reduce incidents of overflow into the streets, explains the Directorate.
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Do not flush these down the toilet
- baby wipes/wet wipes
- dental floss
- tampons or other feminine hygiene products
- cotton balls, earbuds/q-tips
- paper towel/kitchen towel/tissues
- kitty litter
According to a statement by the City of Cape Town, the Directorate spent about R914 252 on replacing over 3,625 drain manhole covers. This occurred between July 2022 and May 2023.
It adds that this figure is a decrease compared to the 5,583 manhole covers that were reported stolen or missing in the 2021/22 financial year.
How can you prevent overflows?
A major concern when sewage overflows, is that it can enter nearby lakes or rivers or brackish waters, and affect their quality. Contaminated sources of water cannot be consumed or used for agricultural or recreational activities. In turn, it leads to economic loss, and vital industries take a hit.
Overflows can also force beaches to close.
- collect oil and grease in a container and dispose of it in the bin – not the drain
- scrape food scraps from dishes into the bin
- replace showerheads with low flow fixtures
- use sink and shower drain strainers
- Online: www.capetown.gov.za/servicerequests
- Email: email@example.com
- SMS: 31373 (Standard rates apply)
- Call: 0860 103 089
- Visit a City walk-in centre (see www.capetown.gov.za/facilities to find the one closest to you)