Raw sewage fouling PE harbour

Problem reported to metro for years but getting worse, port users claim

Raw sewage is spewing into the Port Elizabeth harbuor through a stormwater drain, jeopardising recreation, training and development ventures. The problem has existed for about three years, despite reports to the metro.

Harbour users said it was getting worse, with spills now happening almost weekly.

The drain’s outlet is between the harbour’s southern quay and the Port Elizabeth Deep Sea Angling Club.

Club chairman Richard Donaldson said the club was badly affected.

“It’s raw sewage – excrement, condoms, sanitary pads, you name it,” he said.

“Once it has blown across to us, it’s in full view of the diners at our Up the Deck restaurant. Some have walked out because of the stench.

“Our biggest single income is from our restaurant and pub, so it’s hitting us hard.”

Donaldson said divers had to be contracted regularly to maintain the club’s moorings.

“But with this stuff floating around, we haven’t been able to put the divers in for some time and consequently our moorings are falling to pieces,” he said.

The club was poised to invest R750 000 to increase its moorings and upgrade in line with the ambitious harbour development announced by Transnet this week.

“The aim would be to attract more members,” Donaldson said.

“But who would want to join with this on our doorstep?”

The club had repeatedly complained about the issue to Transnet and the parastatal, as the landlord, had communicated these complaints to the metro.

“Transnet is on the ball but the metro does not seem to have a solution,” he said.

“Sometimes, metro teams do arrive and the problem goes quiet for a while but then it reoccurs.

“It’s been getting steadily worse.”

An electrician by trade, Donaldson said he had been part of the team that did the wiring for the metro pumphouse on the harbour property near the railway line, and this was where the problem lay.

“This pump is supposed to push the sewage up to a higher elevation where it can then gravity-feed through to the next pumphouse and all the way to the Cape Recife treatment works.

“But this pump has not been maintained and is breaking down. The sump fills up and overflows into the stormwater drain.”

Algoa Bay Yacht Club commodore Alan Stratton said the sewage was fouling boats and at times could be smelt on their deck.

“The guys sent out to fix the problem seem to be private contractors, so it’s costing us taxpayers each time.”

National Sea Rescue Institute deputy station commander Justin Erasmus said: “We can’t do [training] here in the harbour when this stuff is floating about.”

Transnet spokesman Margorie Makama said Transnet was engaging with the metro on the issue.

“We wish to apologise to members of the public and port users for any inconvenience caused,” she said.

Metro spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said upgrades made to the harbour sewage line had already reduced harbour spills.

The last spill, on October 22, had occurred after the pump failed due to high volumes of fat being illegally dumped into the system, he said.

The pump was repaired quickly and a probe was under way to find the culprit.

Meanwhile, a full upgrade of the harbour pumphouse would be completed by January next year, Mniki said.