OurHealth Water & Sanitation

Jouberton sewage spills making children sick

Written by Itumeleng Tau

Two women from Jouberton in the North West claim inhaling fumes from sewage that frequently spills onto their street has compromised their children’s health.

Johanna Ngcenge and her son Luvuyo say that nothing has been done about sewage spills plaguing their neighbourhood for years

Johanna Ngcenge and her son Luvuyo say that nothing has been done about sewage spills plaguing their neighbourhood for years

Neighbours Johanna Ngcenge and Selina Lerefolo say that they are sick and tired of the sewage leakage problem that has persisted for more than 20 years in Extension 6. The claim that despite years of complaining, the City of Matlosana Municipality has only found temporary solutions for leaks.

They claim spills led to the children developing tuberculosis (TB).

Meanwhile, they say that the slow pace of maintenance and repairs has backed-up sewers and drains spewing raw sewerage out of manholes and into streets, yards and sometimes even into their homes.

Mother to a 20-year-old son, Ngcenge says the problem has persisted since her son was born. Lerefolo says the problem dates back to at least 1988.

“I have complained many times over the years but the manhole close to our house keeps on leaking,” Ngcenge tells OurHealth. “My son has had TB twice, and I believe it is linked to the sewage. First when he was between the ages of four to five and again when he was in grade 2.”

Ngcenge said that her child even had to undergo an operation on his right lung to drain fluid after absesses developed after he developed TB a second time.

South African National Tuberculosis Association Provincial Coordinator Kenneth Manaka says while inhaling the stench of sewage over a long period of time cannot directly cause TB, the inhalation can compromise the defence mechanisms of the pulmonary system.

“Once the defence mechanisms have been compromised it will be easier for the affected person to contract any pulmonary disease,” says Manaka, adding that it can be difficult to determine where people contract TB because it can spread in a variety of settings including schools, taxis or at work.

Problems persist despite years of complaints

Many complaints by Ngcenge to the local councillor and the municipality have not seen a permanent solution to the leaks by the City of Matlosana Municipality, she tells OurHealth.[quote float= right]“When you call the municipality, municipal officials say that there are not enough trucks and vans, and you must clean up your own sewage”

“When my child got sick years ago municipal authorities wanted to see him. After seeing him they said they would install bigger sewage pipes to make sure that the manholes will not leak again,” add Ngcenge, adding that this has not happened.

Lerefolo adds she felt the only option to protect her grandchild after he developed TB was to move him to Johannesburg.

“I have complained so many times and I am tired now. The sewage sometimes flows into my yard and forms a small dam outside my front gate. When cars drive by the sewage splashes into my yard,” Lerefolo adds.

The women are not the only ones to complain. Papiki Noge from Dark City section close to Extension 6 has also brought blocked drains to the authorities attention.

“When you show them the leaking sewage they say you must call to lodge a complaint,” Noge says. “When you call the municipality, municipal officials say that there are not enough trucks and vans, and you must clean up your own sewage.”

“Sewage pipes must be maintained at least twice a month, but the Municipality only maintains them when there is a complaint,” Noge adds

Spokesperson of the City of Matlosana Municipality Ntswaki Makgetha says the municipality has noted the sewage leakage problem and there are plans are in place to address it.

At the time of going to press, the problem still persisted in the area.

About the author

Itumeleng Tau

Itumeleng Tau is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Gauteng's Johannesburg Health District.