Water conditions at Rievlei waterbody monitored due to algal-bloom found

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Community activists came together in 2021 to protest against the ongoing pollution at Rietvlei.PHOTO: Kailin Daniels
Community activists came together in 2021 to protest against the ongoing pollution at Rietvlei.PHOTO: Kailin Daniels

The water conditions at the Rietvlei water body have raised health and safety concerns after a precautionary note alerted residents to possible blue-green algal blooms.

The City of Cape Town issued a notice to the Protected Areas Advisory Committee (PAAC) on Friday 17 February.

Therein they cautioned the public who use the Rietvlei recreational waterbody for intermediate contact activities, that a potentially highly toxic blue-green algal bloom had been detected.

They urged the public to avoid scum formation and areas showing aggregations of algae for health and safety reasons.

Eddie Andrews, the City’s deputy mayor and Mayco member for spatial planning and environment told TygerBurger the scheduled routine sampling was done on Monday 20 February.

“This would normally exclude algal analysis but we have requested that the routine samples also include hydro samples this time,” he says.

A post on social media shared by activist Carloline Marx says that the conditions are being monitored at Rietvlei.

“We have been closely monitoring the Rietvlei water body (or Flamingo Vlei as referred to in the Protected Area and Diep Estuary management plans) for potential conditions for a toxic bloom due to the hot weather experienced over the past period with very little or no wind, though the wind speed has increased, which aids in churning the surface water.

“Our pro-active monitoring includes conducting ad-hoc emergency water sampling sent away to water and sanitation scientific services for testing,” says Charline Mc Kie, biodiversity area manager at Table Bay Nature Reserve in a post shared via social media.

The notice serves as a precaution to the public using the Rietvlei water body that conditions may still be conducive to blue-green algal blooms; however, the vlei remains open at this stage.

As a precaution users are advised to monitor this highly dynamic situation and avoid scum formation and areas showing aggregations of blue-green algae (flecking in water) for health and safety reasons, the post warns.

Rietvlei’s closure

After months of being closed to visitors, the vlei has finally been opened last year.

In February last year, the Milnerton Aquatic Club (MAC) took matters into their own hands after reportedly raising concerns about the City’s transparency regarding the results of the tests taken around the quality of the water.

After conducting its own water quality tests on 31 December 2021, and then again on 17 January and 25 January 2022, the vlei was finally deemed safe to utilise and reopened in February last year.

TygerBurger previously reported that numerous residents joined a demonstration organised by MAC along the R27 in 2021 demanding answers from the City about the scale and cause of the problem and calling for an urgent resolution.

Concerns raised

Water sport athletes are concerned for their health and safety after hearing about the potential pollution which is still found in the vlei. “We take out boats out on the vlei regularly. Why is the vlei open if it is not deemed 100% safe? We need answers,” says Ryan Manning.

Others argue that the pollution in the vlei is caused by the Milnerton Lagoon pollution.

“The City needs to sort this out,” Manning says.

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