Water, filth out to sea

2016-03-08 06:00

Contaminated stormwater is more likely to cause sea pollution than the City of Cape Town’s sewage outfalls.

This was stated during a recent presentation to the ward 54 committee following a sea trip to monitor the sewage outfalls at Green Point and Camps Bay with representatives of the local ratepayers’ associations.

These outflows came under renewed scrutiny after the City advertised a permit application to keep on discharging effluent water into the sea at Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay (“Sewage nothing new”, People’s Post, 16 June 2015).

The permit application was required after a change in national regulation. The new application required the City to undertake a public participation process.

The City has since been carrying out various tests to assess the impact of the outfalls, explains Johan van der Merwe, Mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning.

“These readings, representing the water quality at the time of testing, are exceptional and in terms of bacterial readings one cannot get better,” he says.

However, controlling the stormwater system proves more challenging.

“The stormwater systems in Cape Town are gravity systems that ultimately end in the ocean. Stormwater (from rainfall, among others) washes off from all the hard surfaces of the urban environment and as a result is contaminated by various sources of human pollution. These are transported to the sea and at times can impact the inshore environment,” Van der Merwe explains.

The City’s sewage outfalls expel roughly 5% of all the water treated at the City’s water treatment plants. The sewage is treated before it is discharged.

The Green Point outfall discharges sewage 1.7km out to sea at a depth of 30m. At Camps Bay the discharge takes place 1.3km off the coast.

The City is working with the CSIR to monitor over 80 sites in and around the outfalls.

“We are collecting ocean floor sediment samples and tissue samples from bottom-dwelling animals. It is an extensive investigation into the marine outfalls and will continue on an ongoing basis. It will allow the City to monitor any impacts from the outfalls as well as provide up to date scientific information to the public,” Van der Merwe says.

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