Spotlight on sewage in new doccie

Local film-maker Mark Jackson says the inspiration behind his new documentary, Bay of Sewage, was to put the spotlight on the issue.

The documentary, which was released on November 30 on YouTube, has garnered more than 50 000 views in a matter of weeks.

Mr Jackson, said he never expected the 12-minute film to get the kind of traction it has.

For the last few years he has been making a living filming for a foreign company that specialises in social-awareness documentaries across Africa.

“I felt it was time to give something back, and use my skill-set to make my own social/environmental awareness documentary for the city I grew up in.”

The City Bowl resident said he has been working in the film industry for the past 20 years.

“I’ve been working in film and photography from my student days, first taking photographs for UCT’s Varsity newspaper and helping to run the photographic society darkroom, while studying for a civil engineering degree. My first job at an engineering firm was to make their corporate video, and since then I’ve never gone back to engineering.”

The issue of sewage outfalls on the Atlantic Seaboard has come under the spotlight in recent weeks with a new initiative called Water Watch SA that aims to monitor the impact of the outfalls (“Ocean choking on sewage,” Atlantic Sun, Thursday November 24)”As someone who studied civil engineering, I know something about how we are supposed to be dealing with effluent and how sea currents work. This gave me a great perspective to make this documentary and explain to others what is now going wrong. It was also a chance to offer some solutions.

“I know engineers like challenges, and I hope other engineers will look at this and take up this exciting challenge, and come up with inventive solutions. After all, being inventive is what true engineers love to do,” he said.

The film focuses on the sewage outfalls off of Camps Bay and the damage they have done to the environment.

The reaction to the project has encouraged him to make more films on the subject.

“It’s been a complete surprise. I was expecting just a few thousand views at most. But the video has clearly struck a nerve, showing that this is an issue that Capetonians are rightly very concerned about. After seeing the huge interest in this topic, I am now planning a longer documentary that will provide more facts about this dangerous situation that is unfolding not just off Camps Bay, but at Green Point and Hout Bay too.”

He said the documentary was also about forcing the City of Cape Town to take note of the issue and make a change.

“Besides that, we, the public, need to take responsibility for our own effluent and try to cut down on the chemicals we use, from anti-bacterial soaps, to antibiotics, all of which have been scientifically proven to be killing sea-life, and to be coming back up the food-chain to harm us too.”

The City of Cape Town responded to the documentary in a statement on Wednesday December 7 saying: “The Bay of Sewage video provides no substantive data or measurable science to support its extensive claims. The City, on the other hand, has been monitoring the impact of the outfalls and coastal water quality in general for many years. The City is in the process of completing an extensive 12-month study with the CSIR on the outfalls, which is close to completion and which will, in due course, be made public.

“The City of Cape Town is an urban environment of approximately 4 million people, and as such the daily human waste produced is substantial. Various components of this waste, regardless of the method of disposal, eventually find their way into our environment. As humans, we do not tread lightly on this earth and each of us contribute daily to this waste stream. The City continuously works to dispose of that waste in a manner that is most environmentally appropriate and which will have the least impact on human health.”

Mr Jackson plans to release a longer version of the documentary to take to film festivals next year.