City’s sea water quality testing questioned

Are the Atlantic waters free from contamination?

Mark Jackson, Tamboerskloof

Regarding your article “Excellent water quality results refute Camps Bay misinformation, says City”, Atlantic Sun, January 31.

The response from our deputy mayor, far from assuring us of safe sea water, only raises concerns further.

On the day of testing, our actual community representative, water testing expert Caroline Marx, had been promised an opportunity to accompany the City on the boat, to do parallel testing, to confirm any results. Strangely, or not, she was left off the boat at the very last minute.

In a video the City has shared of the testing, we saw a sample being taken by a City official from off a boat. We do not believe the testing seen in this video meets acceptable standards.

1 The tester had bare hands – this exposes the sample bottle to human bacteria, sunscreen etc

2 The sample bottle was first flushed in the surface water – this is an absolute no-no, as it exposes the bottle to surface contaminants, like diesel from the boat for example.

3 The sample did not appear to be taken at any decent depth – where the enterococci would have been unaffected by the sun.

Furthermore, the City has not even been able to indicate what the strange milky-white substance seen at Camps Bay is?

So this test was in fact a complete failure by the City. And if this is indicative of how the City testing is normally done, then low results are no surprise, and should be of great concern to all.

We demand fully-independent, independently-audited, water quality testing, at high impact sites like Maiden’s Cove, every day for a year, to draw proper science-based conclusions.

  • Eddie Andrews, deputy mayor and Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, replies:

This was not regular or routine sampling.

This was a specific exercise to ensure that samples were taken to specifically target the scum on the sea surface at Mouille Point as this is what was presented by some on social media as raw sewage; and to target the white milky water in Camps Bay.

It was agreed by all on board for this exercise.

Our staff member was instructed to sample the surface scum and the milky white water which he did precisely and accurately. Were this surface scum to be sewage or even any “remnant or product” of sewage as claimed, the bacterial results would have been in the many thousands. The same applies for the milky white water at Camps Bay.

This was accurately captured in the sample bottle.

We rinsed the bottles at the sampling site with the same water we are sampling to remove any contaminants left behind after sterilisation.

This process cannot decrease final bacterial counts, in fact the reverse, it may possibly result in elevated final bacterial counts.

The City sampling policy was followed after the samples were taken:

– Quickly fit the cap and secure tightly. Do not touch the inside of the bottle top or the inside of the cap.

– Record the time of sampling and check sample identification labelling.

– Place sample in cooler box containing frozen ice pack. Temperature in cooler box should be kept below 8 degrees C during transit. Do not freeze sample. As per the SABS report, all samples were received by SABS in the temperature range of 5.1 degrees C to 5.7 degrees C which is within the 8 degrees C limit set to ensure accurate analysis of the samples received.

– Keep cooler box closed to ensure that the sample is kept in the dark.

These steps are taken to reduce contamination that would increase the bacterial count. Similarly, none of the above would in any way reduce the bacterial count.

The City invited a representative from the Camps Bay community, Paul Moxley, an independent civil engineer, and another resident, an independent marine scientist, to witness the sampling. Mr Moxley even went with to deliver the six water samples at the independent SABS Laboratory for analysis.