Date set for discussion around stench surrounding Milnerton Lagoon

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When GroundUp visited the mouth of the Milnerton Lagoon on 16 December, the water was clearly heavily polluted and the City had erected a number of warning signs. (Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN)
When GroundUp visited the mouth of the Milnerton Lagoon on 16 December, the water was clearly heavily polluted and the City had erected a number of warning signs. (Photo: Steve Kretzmann/WCN)

A meeting to update the public on the current interventions and conditions of the Milnerton Lagoon will take place on Wednesday 30 November at the Leibrandt van Niekerk Community Hall – an important day marked for the environmental activist group ReThinkTheStink and various organisations fighting for a solution.

The Milnerton Lagoon recently made headlines after a second fish die-off was reported with activists calling for urgent interventions.

While the City of Cape Town has appointed environmental consultants to help find possible short-term interventions for the Milnerton Lagoon, the group ReThinkTheStink says they have documented proof that the local Potsdam Waste Water Treatment works (WWTW) is largely responsible for the recent stench.

Bad stench

RethinkTheStink, the environmental protection NPC, and Milnerton Central Residents Association recently announced that, following weeks of visibly worsening lagoon water quality and a foul smell in the area, their investigations prove Potsdam is largely to blame.

The group says after weeks of complaining and urgent requests that the pollution inspection team be sent out, no further feedback from City officials has been received.

They went ahead with water testing done on 4 November by an accredited independent testing company.

The results showed treated effluent containing 750 000 E Coli cfu/100ml (licence requirement is <1000 cfu/100ml) was being discharged into the Diep River at an estimated rate of over 36 million litres per day (equivalent to 18 Olympic size swimming pools).

“Residents cannot be expected to continue to tolerate the stench and pollution until 2026 without suitable interim measures being put into place. We call on the responsible parties to ensure urgent action is taken to mitigate and remediate this environmental disaster,” the group says.

However, the City says the smell is believed to be caused by the sediment which is anoxic in the lagoon, stemming from accumulative contributing pollution factors that have built up over the years.

“The Milnerton Lagoon is the point where all pollutants gather, resulting in sedimentation and the shallowing of the lagoon.

“The sulphur smell is caused by the excessive accumulation of particulate organic matter in sediment that has caused bacteria to proliferate to such a degree they are using oxygen at a rate faster than it can be resupplied.

“The primary driver of this process is human pollution of the natural system,” says the City’s Mayco member for water and sanitation Siseko Mbandezi.

Potsdam WWTW operations

Cayla Murray, the DA’s constituency head for Blaauwberg-Durbanville, confirmed that she has received a parliamentary reply from the provincial minister of local government, Anton Bredell, revealing that solving the pollution of Milnerton Lagoon is subject to the completion of the Potsdam WWTW and Koeberg pump station upgrades and implementation of short-term solutions.

“The detailed response shows health indicators for the Lagoon have changed and that the implementation of the directives relies on the completion of upgrades at Potsdam WWTW, Koeberg pump-station, and short-term interventions at Erica Road Outfall, among others,” Murray says.

In a statement issued this week, it was explained that the City is finalising the Potsdam WWTW tender process and implementing remedial work at the plant.

When asked, the City acknowledged ageing infrastructure and capacity constraints do impact Potsdam WWTW’s operations from time to time.

Potsdam’s capacity will be upgraded from 47 million litres per day to 100 million litres per day, at a total estimated value of approximately R5 billion.

The City says they would like to engage with ReThinkTheStink regarding their results.

Residents say they are looking forward to the community meeting on 30 November where the City will update the public on the current interventions and conditions of the Milnerton Lagoon.

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