Residents urged to help prevent sewer blockages

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The City of Cape Town has urged residents to help prevent sewer system misuse causing blockages and overflows which place the health of the environment and communities at risk.

City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Xanthea Limberg, said the number of reported blockages and overflows has steadily risen over the previous two years, from an average of 293 per day in the 2015/16 year to an average of 330 per day in the 2017/18 financial year.

“While the drought and water restrictions have likely contributed to the increase as it has reduced the amount of water that flows through the system, the primary cause remains abuse of the sewerage system,” Limberg said.

In terms of the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law, no person may discharge substances into a municipal sewer that will interfere with the free flow of sewage.

Limberg said the common causes of blockages include rags, nappies, tampons and sanitary pads, wet wipes, condoms, general litter, building materials and the build-up of cooking fat or oil.

In the case of cooking oil or fats, Limberg said, when these substances are poured or flushed down your sink or drain, they harden and build up on the inside of the sewer pipes and act like glue, attracting rags, hair, paper and other debris.

“The hardness of these blockages can also make them very difficult to clean out. Residents should rather please let grease cool and harden in the pan, and then scrape it along with any food scraps into some newspaper or paper towel and dispose of this in the kitchen bin.

“There is often an incorrect perception that recurring sewer overflows are due to faulty pipes or the lack of sewer maintenance, but I can assure you that this is hardly ever the case. The City cannot take up this challenge on its own. We call on our residents to help us to overcome this problem. We cannot do it without you,” Limberg said. 

The City also called on residents to check that the storm water from their property does not drain into the sewers, but into the storm water system, and to take corrective action if necessary.

“Sewer overflows can be caused by storm water entering the sewerage system, either due to illegal cross-connections on private properties, or missing manhole covers. The extra volume from storm water flow during rainfall can sometimes exceed the capacity of the pipes and leads to, or exacerbates, overflows.

“Missing or stolen manhole covers can also increase the chances of blockages and overflows, as they can act like a magnet for illegal dumping and litter. Residents should please report these missing manhole covers as soon as possible,” Limberg explained.

The City calls on residents to report sewer overflows, blockages and those who transgress the Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law by contacting the call centre on 0860 103 089 or sending an SMS to 31373 (max 160 characters) or a WhatsApp to 063 407 3699. Residents can also send an email to –