In response to Ramsey’s letter…

Byron Herbert, Camps Bay and Clifton Ratepayers’ Association

I was rather alarmed to read Ward 54 Councillor Shayne Ramsay’s report (“Looking back”, Atlantic Sun letters, August 24), in stating that “the ocean is perfectly able to absorb the current outfalls” and by implication that the coastline is unaffected by the 50 million litres of raw sewage that is pumped into the three bays namely Hout Bay, Camps Bay and Table Bay (an Olympic-sized swimming pool is two-and-a-half million litres which makes it around 20 Olympic-sized pools of raw, liquefied sewage daily).

Therefore, if one looks carefully at what was stated in this cleverly worded press release, the Atlantic Ocean is indeed big enough to absorb this volume of concentrated sewage.

She also stated that, “The City takes regular samples for testing to ensure the safety of the bay for local residents. To corroborate their finding, the CSIR was employed to do their own independent testing. Although the results have not yet been made public, I can confirm that they are excellent and show the marine outfalls to be performing exactly as expected”.

This again is accurate, although a little light on the facts, as the City on average only test every two weeks, and these tests are not even on the same day and time or even at wading depth, which makes this deduction based on 26 tests annually, questionable especially as they only test for E.coli and Enterococcus which according to Professor Jo Barnes of Stellenbosch University, die off very quickly in transit.

The councillor then goes on to refer to the “highly guarded” and yet to be released CSIR report (which we are told the City has had in their possession since January, and we believe that the City in fact significantly reduced the scope of what the CSIR wanted to originally undertake, based on “budgetary constraints”) as showing “the marine outfalls performing exactly as expected”. What is this saying exactly?

What we need to consider is that with an ever-increasing population, and bearing in mind that the outfalls service the entire City from Woodstock, through the City Bowl, the Atlantic Seaboard to Hout Bay (excluding Llandudno which has a treatment plant), we have not only concentrated human waste being pumped into the sea 24/7, but also all the household and hospital medication, and then chemicals from both households and industry, making for a highly toxic “sewage cocktail”. So even if some of the E.coli dies off before it reaches the beaches and coastline, the chemicals, viruses and micro plastics remain.

What puzzles me most, is if the City truly believes that “the solution to pollution is dilution” and pumping directly into the sea without proper treatment is not risking the health of the citizens and tourists alike, then why not go against science and conventional wisdom world over and close the expensive treatment works in favour of simple pumps and pipelines into the sea all over the greater Cape Metropole.

I’m not sure why the fact that the City’s in-house “marine biologist” is a surfer has anything to do with justifying his credentials, perhaps this is a way of showing that he is a water user, but he’s certainly not a local surfer, which makes this reference illogical.

Personally, having been fortunate enough to grow up above Glen Beach and still live in Camps Bay, (having surfed the local breaks since I was about 10 years old, surfing the local breaks almost every day along with all other sea-borne sports as I grew up), since the issue of the new discharge permit application came to the Camps Bay and Clifton Ratepayers and beaches being part of my portfolio, we started investigating the local sewerage outfall, I am reluctant to swim, surf or SUP (stand up paddle) in the bay, and definitely won’t allow my kids to surf Glen Beach currently.