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Messy Christmas for city residents as raw sewage spoils festivities

By Sophiah Muthoni | December 24th 2014
An incomplete sewer line drains effluent towards Kahawa West phase two quarry area. [PHOTO: GEORGE NJUNGE/Standard]

Residents of Kahawa West phase two quarry will endure a putrid-smelling Christmas, thanks to careless landlords in the upper side who are channelling effluent from their plots to the area.

The affected residents have been living with the stench of raw sewage for months, which has exposed them to health hazards.

"Some landlords do not want to take full responsibility. Instead of installing septic tanks and calling for exhauster services, they are draining the waste through people's homes. The smell is unbearable in the morning and evening when the waste is drained," said a resident who requested anonymity.

The residents say sewer lines from the upper side terminate in the area, and their current situation has persisted for over a year.

They said some landlords had not installed septic tanks and are draining raw sewage downwards.

The resident who requested anonymity told The Standard that some water pipes had burst and was mixing with the raw sewage.

"Some of my neighbours cannot drink or cook with the water that is coming from the taps because it smells like sewage," she said.

For the two years that Evelyn Njeri, 28, has lived at quarry, she has lived in this condition.

Right outside her house is a shallow trench that takes filthy waste downslope to a swampy area just behind her house. The trench has undergrowth on its walls.

Njeri, a mother of two, says that unlike her neighbour who was able to buy a sewer to channel the filth beneath her premises, she is not in a position to do the same.

"A month ago, my four-year-old daughter touched the water in the trench. I found her playing with it and she developed some skin condition but she is better now," she told The Standard.

The story of Lydia Wambui, a 30-year-old mother, is not any different. She told The Standard her youngest child developed respiratory problems due to the stench from the waste that flows outside her house every day.

"She is always getting sick and the doctor prescribed an inhaler for her. It cost me Sh2,000 and every so often I have to refill, so that is an added cost. I had to buy two pipes to drain the waste even though this is the responsibility of the landlords. Their sewer line ends at my house," she said.

The Standard learnt that seven plots are alleged to be making the lives of those living downwards difficult by their illegal disposal of waste.

"They have pipes dug into the ground to drain the waste but those pipes only get to a certain point, leaving some parts completely exposed to the raw waste in shallow trenches," said a resident who did not want to be named.

Area public health officer John Ukah admitted that his office was dealing with complaints from some residents over the issue.

He said: "We have given some of these landlords notices and we have even taken some to court. The problem has persisted probably because of the incomplete sewer lines but we are trying to deal with the situation the best way we can."

A resident who requested anonymity said that although they had tried to seek help from different authorities in the area, not much has changed.

"We have not received complaints but I am aware that sewer lines are being constructed by the Athi Water Company. For a long time that area and other areas did not have sewer lines and those that have been there cover only 10 per cent of the area. The residents' situation should improve as soon as the project is complete," said Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company representative in Kahawa West who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to talk on behalf of the company.

One of the landlords pointed out that he, as well as other landlords, were in talks with relevant authorities to make sure the sewer lines project is completed soon adding that what is drained from his building is treated and is not a health hazard.

Other areas in Nairobi that have seen a similar challenge in the past include Zimmerman, Githurai 44 and 45.

Njoki Mukiri the Kiambu County Nema Environment Director said her office had received complaints from Kahawa West on the matter.

"The problem with the area is that the water table is very high and you find some of the septic tanks the landlords have installed do not function properly or they overflow so what is discharged sometimes is raw sewage. The waste should be treated in the septic tanks but that does not happen with some landlords," she said.

She added that: "We have issued notices to some of the landlords and some are trying to comply. The grace period we give is usually three to six months and when a landlord does not comply, the next move is to prosecute."

Betty Nzioka, Nema Deputy Director on Environmental Awareness, asked residents to help Nema in maintaining a clean environment by reporting cases of pollution.

"Nema has a small work force and our officers cannot be everywhere, all at the same time. We encourage people to report these cases in a community policing effort," she said.

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