Rags and fats were to blame for the clogged sewage and resultant spill at Camps Bay beach on Saturday, according to the City of Cape Town.
Eyewitnesses say the mess flowed onto the popular beach.
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa was questioned regarding awarding Blue Flag certification to the beach last year (Questions about Cape Town’s Blue Flag beaches, October 26, 2023), much to the dismay of environmentalists.
The City of Cape Town was notified of the inconvenience and cleaned up the debris within hours of the incident.
The Blue flag was lowered and raised again during this time.
“The sewage leak was reported to me at 11.37am by a member of the public. I immediately made contact with the City of Cape Town and instructed them to lower the flag. The City confirmed the flag was lowered as of 12.35pm and indicated that teams would be responding to the incident. The blockage was cleared on the same day at around 6.13pm,” said Tevya Lotriet, the senior sustainability programme manager for WESSA.
“After the City cleared the blockage and contaminated sand, the cause was confirmed to be rags (foreign objects) as well as fats blocking the line. The sewage did not reach the ocean. The flag was raised again the next day (Sunday) during the lifeguard operational hours,” she said.
The City’s Mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, Zahid Badroodien confirmed the blockage and the cause.
“The spill did not reach the ocean. The cause of the blockage was foreign objects in the system, namely rags and fats,” said Dr Badroodien.
He added that residents are reminded that they can help prevent such sewer blockages and overflows by:
• Disposing of unwanted materials using the appropriate solid waste collections and disposal services.
• Ensuring only human waste, toilet paper and grey water be disposed via sinks and toilets in homes and communities. It is illegal for residents to place any another materials into the system because it causes overflows due to blockage.
• Putting a strainer in the sink to catch food or other waste before it goes down the drain and creates blockages.
• Wiping cooking fats, oil or grease off the pan, and don’t pour it down the drain.
• Not flushing nappies and sanitary products, they absorb water and expand, which causes blockages.
• Checking that rainwater gutters don’t flow into the sewer system, as it overloads the system.
• Visiting the City’s drop-off facilities to dispose of recyclables, electronics, garage waste and builder’s rubble.
Mark Jackson, an environmental activist and film-maker, says that this was not a once-off problem as he receives complaints about sewage spills via Facebook and WhatsApp regularly.
“I do hear of sewage spills every other week and the mess does reach the beach, so people have seen it and they do speak about it. It seems that the City’s sewage system is under capacity and the City needs to invest in improving it,” Mr Jackson said.
“Today (Tuesday, January 16), I was notified of another sewage mess on the beach, and Dr Badroodien is correct in recommending that people should not dispose of wet wipes. They (the City) should consider implementing a by-law prohibiting the use of these wet wipes. I must just add that despite objections, plans are in the works to build a 100-bed hotel that will add to this problem,” he said, referring to the development of the hotel on Beach Road.