Despite engagements and discussions, frustrated Merebank residents grappling with health-related challenges will protest over sewage problems

A property in the Navy area in Merebank was flooded with sewage two weeks ago. Picture: Supplied.

A property in the Navy area in Merebank was flooded with sewage two weeks ago. Picture: Supplied.

Published Nov 30, 2023


ONGOING sewer leaks and an unbearable stench in the Merebank area will see residents and The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) stage a protest at the intersection of Badulla Drive, Byfield Road, and Basil February Road on Friday.

Bongani Mthembu, air quality and health officer of the SDCEA, said the picket was directed at the Southern Waste Water Treatment Works (SWWTW) Plant in Merebank.

“We want to highlight the ongoing health hazards faced by the community and to express our dissatisfaction at the failure of the plant management and the eThekwini Water and Sanitation Department to implement a permanent solution to the sewer leaks.

“This community has been grappling with health-related challenges for an extended period, and despite numerous engagements and discussions, a satisfactory resolution remains elusive.

“We believe the picket will draw attention to the urgent need for effective action, demonstrate the unity of the affected communities, and foster a spirit of collaboration and dialogue between the community and the responsible authorities,” said Mthembu.

Ben Maistry, 59, of Surada Place, is a member of the Merebank Residents Association and the Merebank Civic Committee.

He said the problem seemed to have gotten worse recently.

“We have heard that some waste centres are dysfunctional in the eThekwini region and that a number of trucks are coming to this centre to dump their waste.

“It seems this centre does not have the capacity for the additional loads.

“We have residents who have to live with a constant stench.”

He said the stench mainly affected residents who lived in close proximity to the waste centre, including those in Umarkort Crescent, sambalpur Road, Dinapur Road and Rajmahal Road.

“Then there are the leaks which are happening intermittently across the whole of Merebank, The Navy area, at Cuttings Beach, and other surrounding areas. Local fishermen have no money for transport to fish elsewhere, Cuttings Beach is their only option. With the sewage leaks they cannot fish.”

He said they have had meetings with the municipality over the years but the problems have persisted.

Tony Kistan, 65, lives in Parbhani Road. He is also the spokesperson for the Merebank Alliance Forum which advocates for the needs of the community in Merebank.

“We have reports of raw sewage leaks daily. Where I stay it is not so bad, but a few houses down, the leaks are worse. People can’t breathe, they have constant nausea and loss of appetite. Many have experienced vomiting and discomfort. We believe it is linked to the constant stench and pollution. It is becoming a breathing ground for bacteria and infection.

“It is also affecting family lifestyles, where we can’t invite family over or have functions at home because of the stench,” said Kistan.

Mthembu said over the past few years the community had borne the brunt of having a sewer plant in their backyard.

“Most of the complaints we field about the stench and sewage leaks come from Merebank residents. They complain about waste coming up and into the yards from the storm water drainage system. It is a big problem which is causing a health hazard. We have tried on numerous occasions to speak to the management of the treatment works. Unfortunately it seems what we have to say has fallen on deaf ears,” said Mthembu.

eThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson, Gugu Sisilana, said: “The cause of the stench is the that the primary sedimentation tanks had become blocked following the last heavy rain event, due to an ingress of sand and silt into the two tanks. This created odour issues as the de-sludging operation could not be executed due to the blockages. The emptying of the tanks was immediately initiated which takes time as only one tank at a time could be emptied, unblocked and commissioned. The task of removing the sand was undertaken manually which is also time-consuming taking consideration of the tank size which is large. Tank no.1 was emptied and commissioned and thereafter tank no.2 was also emptied.

"The odour problem at present is minimal as compared to when the problem had arisen. In addition to resolving the odour issues, the mobile odour deodorizer spray unit for masking odours had been positioned at the area of the primary sedimentation tanks and is online. We are in the process of dosing enzymes to aid in reducing odour at the primary sedimentation tanks. The tentative timeline to complete the task of clearing and cleaning primary sedimentation tank no.2 is 30 November,“ said Sisilana.