Several residents of Aloes in Nelson Mandela Bay have fallen victim to tummy bugs, diarrhoea and rashes as a result of an ongoing problem with burst pipes pumping raw sewage into the Markman Canal.
The community – about 70 people – has been nagging municipal officials to rectify the problem since November.
Despite the municipality replacing several sewer pipes, the situation is worse than ever, Aloes resident Eileen Leander said.
Since November nine pipes had burst, she said, spewing sewage into the canal opposite EP Brick in Grahamstown Road. The canal runs through Aloes.
“This is an ongoing problem. A pipe bursts, the municipality fixes it, and a new one bursts. But the illness has never been this bad.
“Over the past two weeks, 11 people have taken ill. We can do nothing for them because the closest clinic is in Motherwell – too far for the sick to walk,” she said.
Sandra Baartman, 58, said her husband had coughed up blood earlier this week and had stomach cramps.
“My husband, Phillip, has been battling with headaches and stomach cramps because of the sewage. You smell it in the air, in your curtains . . . it sticks to your clothes.
“He started to cough up blood [on Wednesday] so his boss came to take him to the clinic [yesterday]. He is constantly short of breath. All this only started when the pipes burst last year,” Baartman said.
Patricia Olifant, 32, said her daughter Jenay, 4, had rashes developing on her left arm.
“My poor daughter is constantly scratching her arm because of this rash. The area is disgusting. And the children have to play in the park which is right next to the canal.
“They don’t play in the canal, but as soon as the wind picks up, this sewage-filled water sprays all over our homes and our children. They can’t avoid infection,” she said.
Leander said the toxic water had driven the natural inhabitants of the area away.
“Huge crabs and lizards crawled out of the water – they can’t handle the sewage either. And a lot of the families here make a living fishing this river,” she said.
Zwartkops Conservancy environmental officer Jenny Rump said: “Anyone can see there must be consequences to people and the environment.”
Despite several attempts to contact the municipality, it had failed to respond to questions by the time of going to print.
– Tremaine van Aardt