The fallout over outfalls The fallout over outfalls

2016-09-13 06:00

A marine outfall is a pipeline that discharges any wastewater and general sewerage into the ocean. There are currently 14 deep-sea marine outfalls along the coast of South Africa.

During the design and implementation phase of building marine outfalls, the areas where the outfalls will be built are studied so that the wastewater that is pumped into the ocean gets transported into the open ocean instead of towards the beaches. The impacts of wastewater discharge through most large deep water outfalls in South Africa are monitored. These outfalls include those at Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay.

The CSIR is involved in monitoring the impact of many of the marine outfalls in South Africa. This involves the use of various indicators of ecological health. These indicators can include various chemicals and bacteria in the water and sediment, or in the tissue of marine animals and plants. The types and abundance of invertebrate animals, which live in and on the sediment, are also used to identify the impact of wastewater discharge. Some of these animals are very sensitive to contaminants and when they are exposed to these contaminants in wastewater released by marine outfalls, the abundance and type of species found in these areas changes. This is because some marine organisms are better able to tolerate exposure to certain types of contaminants. If there is a high amount of particular organic matter in wastewater and this then accumulates on the seabed, certain worms reach high abundances.

Wastewater discharged into the ocean might seem unacceptable to the public as it comes with ecological and human risks if not properly managed and monitored. However, this is a practice that is followed in coastal cities around the world. A critical issue for the public is to understand that when they flush the toilet or drain a sink, the wastewater does not magically disappear. It goes through some form of treatment and is then pumped either into a river or the ocean. The removal of all contaminants from the wastewater comes at an exorbitant cost, and as a result most wastewater still has harmful contaminants when reaching the rivers and oceans.

Many contaminants are also introduced to the sea in stormwater runoff. We need to start being conscious of the fact that our everyday activities are responsible for much of the contamination we see, even though it is not what we intend to do. Unfortunately, until we find cost effective solutions for the effective treatment and disposal of wastewater, our rivers and oceans will continue be polluted.

V This column was contributed by Michael Hart-Davis, a student of Marine Science, and Dr Brent Newman, principle researcher at the CSIR.

A marine outfall is a pipeline that discharges any wastewater and general sewerage into the ocean. There are currently 14 deep-sea marine outfalls along the coast of South Africa.

During the design and implementation phase of building marine outfalls, the areas where the outfalls will be built are studied so that the wastewater that is pumped into the ocean gets transported into the open ocean instead of towards the beaches. The impacts of wastewater discharge through most large deep water outfalls in South Africa are monitored. These outfalls include those at Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay).

The CSIR is involved in monitoring the impact of many of the marine outfalls in South Africa. This involves the use of various indicators of ecological health. These indicators can include various chemicals and bacteria in the water and sediment, or in the tissue of marine animals and plants. The types and abundance of invertebrate animals, which live in and on the sediment, are also used to identify the impact of wastewater discharge. Some of these animals are very sensitive to contaminants and when they are exposed to these contaminants in wastewater released by marine outfalls, the abundance and type of species found in these areas changes. This is because some marine organisms are better able to tolerate exposure to certain types of contaminants. If there is a high amount of particular organic matter in wastewater and this then accumulates on the seabed, certain worms reach high abundances.

Wastewater discharged into the ocean might seem unacceptable to the public as it comes with ecological and human risks if not properly managed and monitored. However, this is a practice that is followed in coastal cities around the world. A critical issue for the public is to understand that when they flush the toilet or drain a sink, the wastewater does not magically disappear. It goes through some form of treatment and is then pumped either into a river or the ocean. The removal of all contaminants from the wastewater comes at an exorbitant cost, and as a result most wastewater still has harmful contaminants when reaching the rivers and oceans.

Many contaminants are also introduced to the sea in stormwater runoff. We need to start being conscious of the fact that our everyday activities are responsible for much of the contamination we see, even though it is not what we intend to do. Unfortunately, until we find cost effective solutions for the effective treatment and disposal of wastewater, our rivers and oceans will continue be polluted.

V This column was contributed by Michael Hart-Davis, a student of Marine Science, and Dr Brent Newman, principle researcher at the CSIR.

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