'Poo plumes' off Cape beaches being tested for permit application

An aerial view of the 'poo plumes' off the Cape coast. (Jean Tresfon/Facebook)
An aerial view of the 'poo plumes' off the Cape coast. (Jean Tresfon/Facebook)

Cape Town – While many Capetonians remain worried about sewage outfalls off three beaches, the city says the marine areas show no additional bacteria compared to other beaches.

While it says beaches are not sterile environments, it nonetheless conducts regular tests.

The cleanliness and safety of the water again came into the spotlight after new aerial photographs of alleged "sewage plumes", taken by professional photographer Johnny Miller, surfaced on social media.

The city is still busy re-applying for a discharge permit, for outfall pipes in Green Point, Camps Bay, and Hout Bay.

Mesh removes larger objects before the raw sewage is pumped around 1.7km from the shoreline at a depth of 28m, where the effluent is supposedly safely dispersed away from the coast.

The public was consulted as part of the re-application process that started last year. The window for public comments is now closed.

Comments were submitted to the environmental affairs department along with supporting documents, the city’s utility services mayoral committee member Ernest Sonnenberg told News24 on Thursday.

Blue flag status

"In most cases, however, comments did not provide any scientific grounding for their opposition, but rather simply stated they were against the outfalls," he said.

The comments led to the city using the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Since August/September last year, controlling for possible seasonal changes, the CSIR had been conducting a comprehensive range of tests to ensure the discharge did not significantly affect marine life.

The final report would be handed to the department, as regulator, over the next few months. Sonnenberg said these results would inform the conditions attached to the permit.

Bathing beaches are apparently monitored at least fortnightly, in line with national regulations.

Clifton 4th Beach, Llandudno and Camps Bay are tested weekly to ensure they met the Blue Flag water quality criteria.

Aerial view of the 'poo plumes'
Aerial view of the 'poo plumes'. (Johnny Miller/Facebook)

The beaches in proximity to the outfalls showed no additional E. coli or Intestinal Enterococci compared to other beaches, according to Sonnenberg.

"In fact, beaches such as Clifton and Camps Bay have successfully retained Blue Flag status over many years, which would not be possible if the outfalls were contaminating our inshore waters."

Another angle of the aerial view of the 'poo plume
Aerial view of the 'poo plumes'. (Johnny Miller/Facebook)

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