Sewage closes beach

2012-04-20 00:00

MARGATE Beach has lost its acclaimed blue flag status after a sewage spill onto the beach and is closed to bathing.

The Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa) said that Hibiscus Coast Municipality and Ugu District Municipality were aware of the evident risk to Margate Beach’s blue flag status.

The beach lost its blue flag status this week after raw sewage flowed directly into the Enkongweni River and onto Margate Beach.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Wessa’s national coastal project manager and national blue flag programme co-ordinator, Ted Knott, said it is unfortunate but it is an action that had to be taken.

“You cannot have raw sewage spilled onto a beach. It is harmful to both humans and the environment. I met with both municipalities after the last spill and they were aware of the seriousness of the situation.”

The spillage on Tuesday was the second since December last year, which happened during peak holiday season. The quick management of the spill in December prevented the beach from being closed to thousands of tourists.

Yesterday a couple of people ventured onto the beach but did not enter the water. The smell of sewage was carried on the sea breeze.

Knott said it was sad because the local municipality (HCM), ratepayers and environmental groups had put in years of hard work to maintain their blue flag status.

“Because of the incompetence of the district municipality (Ugu) all that hard work has gone undone.”

He added that was yet another example of poor waste water management in South Africa.

“This is an indication of how the lack of proper waste management in the country has impacted negatively on coastal towns.”

A major failure at the Margate water purification plant, which is staffed by Ugu, caused the spill. HCM spokesperson Simon Soboyisa said: “It is sad for Margate Beach. It is the longest standing beach to have obtained and maintained the blue flag status for approximately nine years.”

“The Hibiscus Coast Municipality and Ugu District Municipality are, however, jointly working tirelessly to reduce the negative effects of the spillage and as a long-term objective to avoid such incidents happening in future.”

HCM municipal manager S’bu Mkhize said: “Ugu has told us that one of the pumps has packed up due to the high volumes of water.

“The beach has been closed to maintain safety.”

The annual Africa Bike week, which sees almost 200 000 visitors flock to Margate, starts next week. “They are working very hard to fix the problem and we are confident that the beach will be open as normal by Monday to accommodate our visitors,” he added.

CEO of Ugu Tourism, Michael Bertram, said: “From our point of view it is a serious problem and we are hopeful that the problem can be rectified soon.

“We are hopeful that Wessa reinstates our blue flag status when they come around for adjudication again. We have the longest-standing uninterrupted blue flag status in South Africa and we hope all of that work does not go unnoticed.”

Chairperson of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Munns, said this would have a very negative impact on tourism, which is one of the driving forces behind the economy of the South Coast.

“It will be a great loss to us if this chases our visitors to the North Coast.”

He added that another concern is health and safety on the South Coast. “If they can pump raw sewage into the sea then what is the state of our underground water? This all boils down to poor management and poor planning,” he added.

Ugu municipal manager Luvuyo Mahlaka said it was unfortunate and they were not proud of the situation.

“However, this is not as a result of Ugu’s inefficiency or irresponsibility. It was a mechanical fault.”

Mahlaka added: “Ugu was directly involved in maintaining the blue flag status in previous years and that role must not be downplayed because of this spill.”

He said that the faulty pump is expected to be operating normally from today.

There are five other South Coast beaches with full blue flag status: Trafalgar, Marina, Ramsgate, Pumula and Lucien.

Southport beach has pilot status.

• witness@feveronline.co.za

Status of eThekwini beaches reviewed

IN Durban, a spokesperson for eThekwini Municipality, Thabo Mofokeng, told The Witness yesterday that city manager S’bu Sitole has expressed an interest in reviewing blue flag status for Durban’s beaches.

Previous city manager Mike Sutcliffe was adamant that blue flags were not the way to go for the city’s beaches. In 2008 North Beach, South Beach, Bay of Plenty and Addington Beach in Durban lost their blue flag status after failing tests for water quality.

“The municipal manager has said that he is open to reviewing the previous decision on blue flag beaches for Durban.

“He is busy consulting with various stakeholders. Thereafter the matter will be taken to Exco and then council for decision.”

Mofokeng said that the matter was likely to be finalised some time this year. “The municipality will review this matter favourably,” he added.

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