Red flag for blue status

Terry Murphy addresses the meeting.

The Camps Bay and Clifton Residents’ Association(CBCRRA) believe that Camps Bay and Clifton 4th beaches shouldn’t have Blue Flag status due to the extent of the water pollution problem while there is “zero” chance of Hout Bay Beach attaining Blue Flag status this year.

This emerged during a Hout Bay River Corridor Management strategy workshop at Kronendal Primary School on Wednesday March 8.

The meeting, chaired by Terry Murphy of the Hout Bay River Catchment Forum, aimed to highlight current issues impacting the state of the rivers and ocean, and took into account the insights of a number of City departments.

Mr Murphy raised the point that achieving Blue Flag status had been on the forum’s radar for some 12 years, but the City’s Blue Flag representative, Edward Knott, was clear in his response.

“There is zero chance of getting Blue Flag status this year. We do not have four years’ worth of water sampling data for Hout Bay’s intended bathing season which is a prerequisite for application, and the applications are due on April 28.”

He emphasised the fact that until water quality challenges were addressed, it would be very difficult to attain Blue Flag status.

It was suggested that Hout Bay attain pilot status in this regard, but Mr Knott said that would not count much for the area.”We need to sort out the water quality first and foremost.”

Resident Dr Penny Brown also alluded to the raw sewage being pumped into Camps Bay, but believed the sewage situation in Hout Bay was considerably worse.

She noted that the south-east wind blows on-shore and the bay was a “bay within a larger bay”, the larger being Duiker Point to Slangkop. As a result, the sewage was kept within the larger bay limits.

However, Mr Knott said the City did not not pump raw sewage into the sea anywhere. “The outfalls use preliminary treatment which includes dilution as well as removal of solids prior to release. The system rapidly dilutes the effluent to at least 100:1 at the immediate exit point of the outfall. This corresponds to a 99 percent reduction in contaminant concentrations in the receiving water, which is far beyond the capabilities of even advanced conventional treatment processes,” he said.

He said the dilution process resulted in a “very substantial contaminant reduction”.

“Bacteria are further controlled by locating the outfall so that transport of wastewater to beaches or other water contact areas is virtually eliminated. Diffuser mixing is therefore usually much more important than treatment in mitigating environmental impacts.”

He said extensive research had shown that the outfall was working as designed and that the waste water did not accumulate in the bay.

“Beaches in proximity to the marine outfalls show no additional E. coli burden. In fact, beaches such as Clifton and Camps Bay have successfully retained Blue Flag status over many years which would not be possible if the outfalls were contaminating our inshore waters.

“Hout Bay’s inshore waters, rather than being polluted by the long sea outfalls, are polluted due to numerous sources of near-shore pollution including the harbour, vessels in the harbour, informal settlements, and local stormwater systems.”

Xolisile Mama, head of Solid Waste Cleansing: Atlantic Division, said the harbour area had been identified as the major polluter. “The already-polluted Disa River is also discharging waste into the sea,” he said.

In terms of the rivers, Abdullah Parker of the City’s stormwater and sustainability department, said “most of the time” Hout Bay’s E.Coli levels were compliant with accepted standards.

“However, as one goes further downstream it gets worse, particularly around the Victoria Bridge area.”

Numerous reasons were cited for this, including the presence of animal matter and chemicals from washing powder in the water.

Recently, the City has implemented a number of “quick-win” projects for Imizamo Yethu and Hout Bay River.

These include the laying of sewerage pipes, closing the existing culvert on Nelson Mandela Drive.

The City has, however, encountered numerous issues in laying pipelines, chief among which is newcomers to Imizamo Yethu building shacks on top of the infrastructure.

“The obvious solution is to take these houses away, but these houses need to go somewhere which is the problem that is facing us,” said the City’s Talcott Persent.

The land invasion unit has been monitoring the housing situation closely, but once a shack is inhabited for a brief period of time it is very difficult for occupants to be moved.

Accordingly, Mr Persent called for police, Law Enforcement and neighbourhood watches to assist in the monitoring process to prevent people from erecting shacks illegally.

Questions were also asked from the floor on the possibility of establishing a silt trap and retention pond to serve as a backup to the grey water system below Victoria Road.

Mr Parker said this was a good idea, but with the ongoing drought the City had to prioritise its projects.

“There are areas such as Manenberg which are in desperate need of assistance,” he said.

The CBCRRA believe that the Blue Flag status of two of the city’s most popular beaches is questionable due to the water pollution. Byron Herbert, a member of the association who runs the events and beaches portfolio, believes the water testing being done by the City of Cape Town is too seldom.” He said that five and a half million litres of sewage was pumped off Camps Bay sewage outfall every day.

“To put it into perspective, that is the size of two Olympic swimming pools of sewage. The City’s reasoning that the problem is being caused by stormwater drains, especially when it hasn’t rained and we aren’t allowed to use hoses, is laughable.”

He said the CBCRRA is planning to put up a website that will have some information on the water. “We want people to be aware of the problem and to make up their own minds. We would like to work together with the City to find a solution.”