Cape Town residents urged not to dump car engines, stoves in sewers


CAPE TOWN, July 22 – The City of Cape Town on Sunday urged residents to refrain from dumping items such as “ovens, sheep heads, garden chairs, tyres, cloth, car engines, lawnmowers, nappies, and rope”, in sewers.

Operations to remove “inappropriate materials” from the sewer system were carried out on a daily basis and cost about R170 million a year to address, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water, and waste services; and energy Xanthea Limberg said.

“Materials such as ovens, sheep heads, garden chairs, tyres, cloth, car engines, lawnmowers, nappies, and rope, among others, should not be dumped in the sewers. The persistent misuse of the sewer system continues in areas across the metro, causing blockages and overflows which place the health of our environment and communities at risk.

“It also wastes City of Cape Town resources which could rather be used to extend service delivery to our communities. It is also hugely unpleasant and inconvenient, to say the least, for those who have to suffer the effects of a sewer blockage,” Limberg said.

The city’s sewer reticulation system operated under tremendous stress because it was being misused, although often unknowingly by residents. The number of reported blockages and overflows had steadily risen over the previous two years, from an average of 293 per day in 2015/16 to an average of 330 per day in 2017/18.

While the drought and water restrictions had likely contributed to the increase as it had reduced the amount of water that flowed through the system, the primary cause remained abuse of the sewerage system, she 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. The sewer reticulation system is only geared to accept toilet waste (urine, faeces, and toilet paper) and sink/basin/bath waste (water, washing liquid and soap).

“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, 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.

“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,”  she said.

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

“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 center 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”

– African News Agency (ANA)