The entrance to the Frangipani School for Mentally Disabled children in Phalaborwa experiences sporadic sewerage floods into the grounds. The Phalaborwa municipality's health inspector said there was nothing he could do to help.

Gallons of raw sewerage is running into the property of one of Phalaborwa’s most respected educational centres for children with disabilities. Frangipani Day Care Centre for children with disabilities, situated on the corner of Essenhout and Acacia Street, was forced to close their doors last week and take care of the children from the home of principal, Anna Krause, simply because of the river of human waste which made entering the school grounds near impossible. The Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality has paid them little notice and the situation has, as per usual, been left to spiral down the abyss of service delivery.

“We are always faced with this and it has been going on for months,” Krause said. “The smell is horrible and these are children with special needs! It is worse when we are inside because the smell does not leave, and combined with the notorious Phalaborwa sun, it becomes a serious health and safety issue. The municipality has not been able to assist us and when we call to report the matter, we are told that there is nothing they can do to help” she said.

Raw sewerage flooding form one of the drains at the school.

Bulletin paid a visit to the school this week to investigate the matter, and what we found, was shocking. A blocked drain in the school’s yard was literally overflowing causing deep pools of sewerage to form all along the entrance to the classrooms and in some parts even submerged the school’s porch.

“This is a regular occurrence which the municipality has blamed on roots from the trees surrounding the property causing the pipes to clog up. But I don’t believe this to be true and have highlighted my findings to the municipality a number of times in the past.”

Krause pointed out that the residential property which borders Frangipani, was converted into a residence for the students attending college in town. According to her observations, the houses have been converted into hostels for these students with extra rooms added onto the original home, but the sewerage system was never upgraded. This means that there are too many people in the house for the plumbing to handle, which in turn could be why the sewerage keeps overflowing into the school’s premises. Two years ago, Bulletin investigated the issue of the student accommodations mushrooming up all over town. In those reports, we discovered the same situation at various hostels.

The sewerage covered pavement outside Frangipani school for the mentally disabled in Essenhout Street. The manhole from which the raw sewerage sprouts, can be seen in the top left of this shocking image.

“All around us there are houses and small rooms built around the yards of these houses to accommodate students from college. In these small rooms they are grouped in pairs paying about R 1000 a month and I think it is the number of people staying here that block the system,” Krause theorized. “At least now they will be going home because schools are closed, and we do not have any sewerage problems. However, when they return the rollercoaster starts again.”

She claimed that the BPM’s health inspector, Schalk Gagiano, was reluctant to assist. “Schalk said that he cannot do anything because there would be court cases. They just never come out here and the only thing we want is for them to come and unblock the drain so life can go on”. 

Bulletin spoke to one of the students who lives in the makeshift hostel neighbouring Frangipani. According to this student, they use the toilet facilities at their schools and colleges because at the hostel, the toilets are always blocked.

The veranda of the school for children with mental disabilities is completely flooded with raw human waste.

Health inspector, Gagiano, said that his health inspectors have been to the property on several occasions and have noted that the sewerage system not connected correctly it needed to change. “The housing in question is further down the street and not near Frangipani, so I would not say it is because of the housing that it is flooding. The engineers need to come and change the connection,” said Gagiano. “I can’t completely rule out that the housing could be playing a part in the blockage though, but investigations will ultimately tell.”

Sybrandt de Beer, the ward councilor of ward 11, has also noted that there was major sewage problem at the corner of Acacia and Essenhout Street.

“The cause of the sewage problem is the ten or fourteen flats. Illegal flats that are on the property of the house next door to the school. The municipality should have ended that issue a long time ago. There is a court interdict to break down those illegal flats because there was no plan to build any of them,” stated de Beer. “There are so many blockages in town because the town was developed to accommodate one house on a stand and now, with the addition of college learners, there are now 24 to 30 people on a single property which is just too much for the system,” concluded de Beer. He assured Bulletin that he will be following this up with the housing department at the municipality.