UPDATE: Sewage contamination at Margate – Ugu issues statement

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY 8.30am

THE South Coast Herald has been asking questions of Ugu since Monday this week, and has received no response.

The municipality did however release this statement via email this morning:

“07 March 2017

Municipality warns residents against use of Lagoon and the Beach

Following the recent incident of a pump failure due to a blockage in the drainage line of the Margate sewer pump station on Monday, causing flooding in the wet and dry well of the pump station which resulted in effluent being discharged into the Margate River.

Residents are urged to avoid contact with water in the Lagoon and the Margate beach until the levels of contamination have been certified to be in acceptable standards for swimming, bathing and any other recreational activities. A high-level team of environmental Health services is currently on site conducting constant tests of the river to determine the level of contamination to institute possible remedial measures. And the clean-up operation of the river and the beach is underway.

The rehabilitation work of the pump station was conducted immediately and carried out till the early hours yesterday. This involved the execution of manual draws through the Vacuum Tanker Service (VTS) trucks who also worked through the night on Monday to restore the pump station back to operation. The pumps, which were flooded at the station, are currently undergoing repairs, and are expected to be operational as rehabilitation of the station is currently underway. Currently, a backup pump is in operation at the sewer pump station and the other pump should be connected back online in no time.

The municipality wishes to reassure communities that we are on course in terms of ensuring that incidences of this nature do not re-occur and we do extend our sincerely apology for the inconvenience caused by this occurrence.”

>>>>>

UPDATE: TUESDAY 3.30PM

DESPITE all the stops being pulled out by teams from Ugu District Municipality to save Margate beach from yesterday’s sewage spill at the Waste Water Treatment Works near the Margate Bowling Club, many questions remain unanswered.

WATCH: Ward Councillor Dave Watson’s view of yesterday’s severe engineering failure at the pump station at the Nkongweni River, Margate.

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The South Coast Herald has, to date, not received any official response from Ugu District Municipality regarding the situation. This despite asking for a response since yesterday.

Ward Councillor Dave Watson on Margate beach.

When the Herald, together with Ward Councillor Dave Watson, arrived at the Waste Water Treatment Works early this morning they were met with red tape, and a security guard who jumped up when he saw the camera and said: ‘Don’t shoot’.

After yesterday’s drama with an unknown man yelling at reporter Shona Aylward to get away from the pump station, this begs the question: is this a cover-up?

An excavator and a team from Ugu District Municipality worked throughout last night to breach the river mouth. This morning, red tape and signs saying ‘no swimming’ were seen erected at the river and along the main beach.

However, at this stage, both Margate and Lucien beaches are closed to bathing.

Worryingly, there has been NO sign of a clean-up operation at the beach, and it is unclear if Ugu District is panning to conduct one (or even re-oxygenate) before there are fish kills.

This is not the first time a spillage has taken place at Nkongweni River. The question on many people’s lips at the moment is why has it been allowed to happened again?

 

UPDATE:

FOLLOWING the closure of Margate beach, Lucien beach has now also been closed, as a precautionary measure.

Here is the latest update from Councillor Dave Watson who is monitoring the situation closely:

  • A team from the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and Department Water Services has visited the site and investigations are ongoing.
  • The municipality is currently sourcing an excavator  to re-open the mouth, in order to divert the contaminated water coming down the Nkongweni River away from the main beach. The relevant department has authorised the breaching of the mouth.
  • If an excavator is sourced this afternoon, the teams will work right through the night.
  • Ugu technicians are in attendance attempting to mitigate the environmental damage as well as the threat to public safety.
  • Please note: If you see honey-sucker tankers discharging their loads into manholes at Uvongo, Ramsgate and Margate outer – this in NOT a concern as they are discharging into the sewerage reticulation system.
  • Warning signs have been erected on Margate’s main beach. The signs read: “These waters are contaminated. Swimming, fishing, collection and consumption of all sea creatures from these areas are strictly prohibited until further notice”.

 

ORIGINAL STORY:

MARGATE beach is closed for swimming and recreation.

According to Councillor Dave Watson a gasket blew in the main pump well at the lower pumping station next to the Nkongweni River near Margate beach.

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The well filled rapidly and to protect the workers and millions of rands worth of equipment, the decision had to be taken to pump out the well as an emergency measure. This effluent has been discharged into the river as an emergency measure that was unavoidable. Technical investigation will be undertaken to ascertain damage and methodology embarked on – Cllr Dave Watson

Cllr Watson described this as ‘a serious environmental and public safety disaster’.

“Ugu environmental teams are on site, samples are being taken and continual monitoring will be undertaken.”

He confirmed that ‘no swimming’ signs have been erected at the beach to warm the public to stay out of the water.

According to a post by Sphelele Cele on the Municipality Talk Facebook page, “Ugu District Municipality discovered a sewage overflow in its Margate pump station due to an electrical fault. Technicians are on site working to minimise damage and ensure no effluent is directed into rivers. The clean-up process is being assisted by internal VTS Services doing manual draws to avoid further damage to the electrical equipment”.

WHAT WE KNOW:
  • The Herald received a call from a concerned Manaba resident who witnessed several honey-sucker vehicles travelling along Lilliecrona Boulevard.
  • When the Herald arrived at Lilliecrona Boulevard both Ugu District and private honey-sucker vehicles were seen travelling back and forth, discharging sewage into the pump house and into a manhole along the road.
  • The Herald reporter followed a honey-sucker to Margate river, where a large team from Ugu Municipal District was present.
  • The Herald reporter was told to get off the site by unknown man.

 

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  AUTHOR
Shona Aylward
Reporter

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