Sewage spill

An aerial view of First, Second, Third and Fourth Clifton Beaches in the Foreground and Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles in the background.

If you were thinking of going swimming, diving, water skiing, surfing, paddle skiing or windsurfing at Clifton First Beach, you best put those plans on hold after sewage spilled into the ocean from a nearby property.

The City of Cape Town said the spill emanated from a sewer blockage in Victoria Road, and mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, warned that “full-contact recreational activity” could increase the risk of gastrointestinal problems as well as skin, eye, ear and respiratory irritations.

Ocean pollution has been an ongoing concern on the Atlantic seaboard, with residents having concerns over the disposal of sewage disposal into the sea.

A senior professor and leader of the Environmental and Nano Science Research group at the University of the Western Cape, Professor Leslie Petrik, said this incident just added to “the mess” the City was making of the coastline.

Professor Petrik said the City of Cape Town disposed of as much as 28.4 million litres of raw sewage a day from the Green Point marine outfall, 2.4 million litres a day via the Camps Bay outfall and 5.7 million litres a day from the Hout Bay marine outfall.

“Our whole Atlantic seaboard is enormously contaminated. We have also reported this to the City via our own studies. We have found numerous compounds such as pharmaceuticals and perfluorinated hydrocarbons bioaccumulating in the aquatic organisms. We have also found that the beach sand and subsurface beach water is full of microbes,” she said.

Professor Petrik said even if the sewer was repaired, the damage being done was ongoing and that the City had shown no intention of stopping the millions of litres of untreated sewage going out to sea.

“The impact on our marine and coastal environment can only get worse as the discharge volumes grow continuously as the city grows.”

The City said its teams were hoping to repair the blockage as soon as they were able to gain access to the property. “City Health will erect signage to warn the public about the situation and will inform the public once the spill has been resolved and this area of the beach is safe again,” the City said in a statement released to the media.

Meanwhile, an image of green liquid flowing into the ocean at Sea Point beach has been circulated on social media over the past two weeks. While residents suspected the liquid was a toxic coolant, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said inspections on site had shown no evidence of any coolant since the incident was originally reported.

“The City has identified various companies that both manufacture and use this substance in the servicing of commercial cooling systems but, as this investigation is ongoing, the City cannot release further details at this stage,” he said.

Mr Herron added they would be engaging with the various companies to make them aware of their responsibilities and that it was illegal to discharge this substance in to the City’s stormwater system.