Sewage and its proper removal is important. However, sewage breaks and spillages have been a chronic problem in Grahamstown for a number of years.
“Approximately 30% of Grahamstown’s sewage goes untreated into the Kowie River.”
On campus alone, there are sewage leaks in front of Courtenay-Latimer Hall and Botha House while last year, spills were left unattended next to the Music Department and in front of Milner House. Besides the UCKAR campus, such breakages occur all over Makana Municipality zones especially in the streets below 11th Avenue and in Lavender Valley. There are some attempts to rectify these problems but Grahamstown East is even less regarded with significant sewage spillages going unresponded to for long periods.
The main issue at play here is the extensive sewage blockages and breaks as well as the old and rusted piping system in Grahamstown which leads to tap water coming out brown and corrosive. These problems have been brought to the attention of Makana Municipality officials numerous times with only vague replies of it being handled and the baton being passed around constantly. In 2014, the Kowie Catchment Campaign (KCC), Water for Dignity and other water safety groups met with the local municipality regarding the Adopt-A-River venture and they visited the proposed site, Lavender Valley. On the basis of the unacceptable water health, it was clear that a budget should be allocated to the upgrading and consistent maintenance of the area’s sewage infrastructure. There has been limited feedback on this issue in the time since and various reasons for this may be politicking and mismanagement through improper release of ‘processed’ sewage, lack of maintenance and a lack of care within the community such as flushing improper items down the toilet.
These areas of concern all hold guilt in the Makana piping problem as approximately 30% of Grahamstown’s sewage goes untreated into the Kowie River while sewage spills are often left for weeks at a time. Research by Botany students late in 2016 showed that the Bloukrans River is also in a hazardous state which “we would shudder to drink.” Such pollution acts to undermine the ecosystem’s ability to recover and catchment health will decline, a scary thought since we live in the catchment. According to Nikki Kohly, the Makana Municipality is quite dysfunctional with its equipment often being broken resulting in little proactive fix-ups. The infrastructure is also aging and “the reality on the ground will only get worse”, stated a Makana councillor. Although the problems are numerous, the KCC maintains to hold the municipality to account through co-operative action to improve the infrastructure and the Health of Makana’s river catchments.
The disregard for the unhealthy practices of sewage removal is frightening as its effects pose a threat to people, livestock and the environment. Such breaks on the UCKAR campus go untended for weeks and it poses the greater question and, perhaps obvious, answer of what goes unnoticed in the areas typically disregarded themselves.