From TVs to forks (and a mattress) in Cape Town’s sewage system


Car tires and parts, rags, clothes, buckets full of cutlery and even a television set are some of the strange items that the Cape Town Metro’s water and sanitation crews recently had to remove when they cleaned clogged sewer pipes in the city.

Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, says that over the past financial year (from July 2022 to June 2023) the city has spent around R417 million to tackle blockages in Cape Town’s sewage system.

“The city’s water and sanitation teams clear more than 300 sewer blockages a day,” says Badroodien.

These blockages are caused by illegal dumping and the misuse of the sewage system.

“In about 85% of these cases, the blockage is due to the misuse of the sewer system where items such as rags, feminine hygiene products, construction debris, litter, fats and oils are illegally dumped in manholes or enter the system through sinks or toilets.”

The city even removed a television set and car parts from the sewer system, says Badroodien.

“Recently, spoons and forks were removed from sewer pipes in Mfuleni. On 21 June, a mattress was removed from the manhole in Lavender Hill with the help of specialized cleaning equipment and manpower. It lasted about four hours.”

Crews are spraying the sewer pipes clean as proactive measures to prevent sewer blockages, says Badroodien. The crews also replace pipes as needed.

The city also conducts education and awareness campaigns about illegal dumping in the sewer system, including the Bin It and the Don’t Block It campaigns.

“Residents must be aware of what they do with their waste. Toilets, sewer pipes and drains are not ash bins. Waste that ends up in the sewer pipe will clog it and put further pressure on the sewer infrastructure across the city. It can even lead to infrastructure damage, which will cost the city money.

“While the city is taking proactive measures to help reduce sewage overflows, we also urge residents and community leaders to use the resources available on the city’s website to participate in efforts to raise awareness about this issue and what we can all do to prevent sewer blockages.

“The reality is that the city cannot stop residents from flushing down the toilet or at a sink or pouring down a drain. It is therefore the communities’ responsibility not to do this and to prevent such sewer blockages.”