Flood failures

JON HOUZET

NDLAMBE municipality has been slammed for its alleged failure to stop thousands of litres of raw sewage from polluting floodwaters that deluged people’s homes in lower Hards Street, Stewart Road and Medolino Caravan Park.

Added to this criticism is another allegation that the municipality could be held responsible for failing to implement a “permanent fix” for stormwater problems after a flood in 2003.

At a meeting at the Port Alfred Baptist Church last week for residents whose homes were most critically affected by last month’s flood, Medolino owner Derek Victor informed residents that the sewerage station at the bottom of Stewart Road had been exuding sewage for three weeks before the municipality finally got the sewerage pump operating again.

Victor said he had appealed for the municipality to put up signs warning people not to go into the water, and despite an agreement from the disaster management team at the fire station on November 5 to do so, no signs had been erected.

“We’ve had people getting really sick. It’s extraordinarily dangerous. The potential for disease is extremely real,” said Victor.

“Don’t just go in the water. Be properly equipped,” he warned, adding he had bought a number of dry suits and wellington boots.

Residents at the meeting expressed concern over whether their homes would be salvageable after being polluted with sewage.

“The water level under our homes is so high it’s going to be a problem for a long time,” said Sally Greasley.

Victor requested the floodwater to be tested for ecoli levels and the municipality did so at two different locations in the flooded area.

The test results, of which TotT has a copy, stated they were for “potable water examination” and revealed an ecoli count greater than 201cfu per 100ml.

“It’s highly strange that’s all they tested for,” said Victor. “We know it’s not potable, we’re worried about people going into it.”

He said he was insisting on a test that revealed the exact ecoli count. “It could be 20 000cfu for all we know.”

Victor also he had arranged for the marina dredger and three pumps from a private contractor to pump the water out of the flooded area as the municipality had done nothing about it.

He said the combined pumps were pumping out about 12-million litres a day and they hoped to have the job finished by the end of the weekend.

“When I look at the cleanup job it breaks my heart,” said Victor, whose own home in Hards Street was covered up to the roof.

Baptist Church pastor Jason Currie, whose church forms part of the recently established Port Alfred Networked Disaster Relief (PANDR) organisation, said they would help with the cleanup.

“We’ve asked councillor Ross Purdon to make needs known to the municipality. It can’t just be the community doing this. It has to be the community and the municipality,” Currie said.

Councillor Terri Stander said the “silver lining” was that Ndlambe had been declared a disaster area, although any funding the municipality received would not cover private loss.

“But surely a cleanup forms part of the disaster relief,” she said.

Victor also blasted the municipality for failing to implement a solution to the stormwater problems in the valley nine years after the 2003 flood.

“Stewart Scott consulting engineers estimated a permanent fix would cost about R2,5-million [at the time], whereby water would be diverted over the golf course and out to sea.”

Asked to respond to Victor’s claims, municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said: “There has been a lot of damage caused by the recent floods in the whole area of Ndlambe.

“The municipality is doing all in its power to resolve the problem in all areas of the municipality, including people with no place to stay and no running water.”

“The issue of the Medolino has also received our attention,” said Mbolekwa, adding that he sympathised with Victor’s situation.

He said the municipality was sourcing funds for flood damage, and the Medolino pumps were part of its business plan submitted to the national treasury.

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