The evening of 30 March, local residents were ankle deep in mud as they worked together to save an exhausted cow that had fallen deep inside a water-filled trench on the Worcester Street extension road. Just a few hours later a car narrowly missed the same fate, placing passengers and the driver of the vehicle in danger.
The gaping trench is a result of municipal pipe repair work that began at the end of 2017. The burst pipe was repaired within a week, and the hole filled in two weeks later. However, the pipe burst again less than 10 days after the hole was filled. The second repair was completed two weeks ago, but the hole was left unfilled. Given recent rainfall and constant use of the dirt road, the hole has increased in size and filled with murky water, causing a huge safety concern for residents.
Ward Councillor Brian Fargher commented, “The problem we’ve had with the water leakages down at the bottom of Worcester street have really compounded. First it broke the end of last year, when they repaired it, [and]left the hole open and we had one or two incidences then. And then, having filled it again, two or three weeks ago it has burst a second time, and now the problem really has started.”
John Davies, manager of the Smokey Moon Backpackers, uses the road daily.
Davies told Grocott’s Mail that he has been battling with Makana for years regarding the upkeep of infrastructure. Davies believes that the reason Grahamstown suffers from burst pipes and poor roads is due to “modern action”.
“You don’t damage old infrastructure with modern technology”, he stated. “Anyone who’s got experience would understand that.”
Davies said a lack of proper knowledge and care was present during the repair of the Worcester pipe, causing the need for a second repair.
Davies’s assistant manager, Herman Van der Wilt, said that before the trench was filled after the first repair, a guest from the backpackers had fallen in. The guest had been taken to hospital due to a leg injury. Van der Wilt emphasised the danger the trench served to community members, specifically children, who might find the water-filled hole a fun place to play.
On 24 March, Davies emailed Municipal Manager Ted Pillay and Fargher.
Both Fargher and Pillay agreed that the hole was to be filled immediately as it posed a severe threat to the safety and well-being of the community.
“The hole is full of water, it’s a major peril to pedestrians, and to traffic. We’ve had a cow fall into the hole, it’s been a major exercise to get the cow out of the hole,” said Fargher.
On 4 April Grocott’s Mail visited the site of the trench with Fargher. It was loosely barricaded with tape and a yellow service blockade. There was a pile of shale adjacent to the open trench.
“There’s been very little action from the municipality until this morning,” said Fargher. “We see they’ve now been given instructions to load four loads of shale and take them to the site. We just hope that this problem can be eliminated and the danger to the public eliminated.”
Infrastructure and Technical Services Director Dali Mlenzana confirmed that the hole was the result of a trench dug to enable the Water Section to fix a burst water main that runs under Worcester Street.
“The hole has already been fixed by my Roads Section. It took a week for my guys to be able to backfill and compact the hole due to inclement weather that the Grahamstown area of Makana experienced in the last two weeks or so,” he said.
Mlenzana said the trench was open as a result of standard procedure. “The trench of a fixed water pipe is left open for a period to ensure that the leak is fixed,” Mlenzana said. “However, in this case rain fell during the period the guys were testing if the leak had been fixed,” he said. The hole then filled up.
“I must however express the municipality’s sincere regret at the injuries that have been experienced by both the person and the cow that fell into the hole,” he said.