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‘Sewer solution comes from all’

Owners of the Strand Square shopping centre, previously known as Dorpsmeent, have bemoaned the services from the City of Cape Town following at least seven years of continuous problems related to blocked drains.

Human waste often seeps from manholes and into the parking area, creating an unhygienic situation and unremitting stench regularly, and the toilets are “always” out of order.

Pieter van der Westhuizen, General Manager of FPG Property Fund, said the company acquired the centre, located on the corner of Main and Fagan Road, adjacent to the municipal offices, in 2013.

“In 2014, we undertook an extensive upgrade of the centre in an effort to improve the shopping experience for the Strand community,” he said. “However, since we became the owners of the centre, we have been experiencing regular blockages of the municipal sewerage system that in turn has caused the toilets at our centre to become blocked.

“This has been carrying on for the past seven years and all our requests to the municipality in Cape Town to rectify the problem have fallen on deaf ears.” Van der Westhuizen added over the last three years his company spent about R70 000 on unblocking sewer lines caused by blockages in the municipal sewer lines.

“The reason for this is council’s failure to attend faults/blockages timeously. As a shopping centre we cannot afford to have our public toilets out of order for days on end. A large portion of our customer base is elderly people, for whom we have to provide ablution facilities.”

He said council’s failure to address the problem is causing the centre “to lose customers” as toilet facilities are always out of order, and customers do not accept the explanation that this is a municipal issue.

“They accuse us of not providing a good shopping experience. Once a customer decides not to shop at our centre it is very difficult to get them to come back. We pay our rates religiously to Council every month and we expect the service from council that we deserve. Letters and phone calls to it have had little or no success.”

Mayoral committee member for water and waste, Alderman Xanthea Limberg, responded that all the blockages reported to the City were attended and work completed.

“The majority of sewer blockages are caused by misuse/abuse of the system. Common causes of blockages include rags, newspapers, hygiene products, nappies, wet wipes, building materials and cooking fat. Residents should note it is illegal to flush or allow any of these items to enter the system on their property. The City needs residents to help prevent overflows.”

Limberg added “fats” are especially problematic in this area. “This is normally a result of restaurants failing to manage the grease they produce in terms of the City’s bylaws. When cooking oil/fats are poured or flushed down the sink and 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.”

Van der Westerhuizen said it is the City’s responsibility to get this long outstanding matter fully resolved.

“The City of Cape Town’s slogan is ‘This City Works for You’. In this instance they certainly do not.”

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