Beach of waste

PICTURE: Jean Tresfon

The toxicity of the Camps Bay Beach to marine life was once again brought to attention at the Camps Bay Clifton Ratepayer’s Association (CBCRA) public meeting on May 7.

CBCRA member, Byron Herbert, did a presentation on the threat to the marine life. The ratepayer body raised concerns over what they claim to be millions of litres of raw effluent dumped into the marine protected bay area.

Among the concerns raised at the meeting were health hazards and alarming long-term effects that residents fear will haunt future generations.

Mr Herbert explained that the City of Cape Town commissioned the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to do its own study following a video that went viral online titled The Bay of Sewage in 2016. The CSIR study found that the outfall posed no significant risk to human health.

However, Mr Herbert explained that a report by University of the Western Cape’s Professor Leslie Petrik, University of Cape Town’s Professor Lesley Green and a senior lecturer and epidemiologist at Stellenbosch University challenged the CSRI report which, the City, according to Mr Herbert, dismissed.

The report by the academics argued that the CSIR report was being negligent and misleading in not making distinction between acute and chronic health risks. The academics further said the CSRI report was not acknowledging that their list of harmful compounds were not up to date and the toxicity tests were not related to human health.

Mr Herbert said that Glen Beach was also polluted and signage is needed to let people know when it happens again.

One resident asked what the solution was to the problem. “The City has been giving us the runaround on this and threatened us with litigation if we didn’t remove The Bay Of Sewage from YouTube. Among their claimsis that we had used computer generated imagery (CGI) to create false images, but fortunately CBCRA is not scared of the City,” said Mr Herbert.

City of Cape Town media manager, Luthando Tyhalibongo, said although they have been discharging wastewater in this way since the first modern civilisation settled and permanently established human habitation in the area, the receiving marine environment has not as yet been deleteriously impacted and to date, no significant ecological impacts are evident. “In our opinion Professor Petrik is correct to highlight the accumulation of new synthetic chemicals as an area that requires further research and that the long-term effects of various chemicals on marine ecology and human health are not yet understood,” said Mr Tyhalibongo.

Mr Tyhalibongo went on to say that the City acknowledges that the production of new chemicals poses challenges in the context of wastewater disposal, that the practice of wastewater disposal will never be without an ecological and human health risk and cannot proceed in perpetuity, and hence that a zero discharge policy is the ideal to strive for, but at this time it is not realistically possible. He went on to say that the the practice of discharging wastewater into the sea will continue into the foreseeable future.

“The City has developed an extensive monitoring programme with the assistance of four external expert marine scientists in an effort to supplement further research efforts,” said Mr Tyhalibongo.

On The Bay of Sewage YouTube video, the City said they have identified instances in the video where data was used incorrectly, and took issue with not being offered right of reply. This they said was raised via appropriate legal channels.