Sewage pollution closes yet another South African beach…

The City of Cape Town was forced on Sunday, December 18, to close the main bathing area at Fish Hoek Beach, Cape Town, until further notice, after a “sewer overflow”.

The city said on Sunday it was a precautionary measure and that various departments were responding to the incident.

“This is a precaution as contact with the water could result in potential gastrointestinal issues and therefore any person who enters the water does so at their own risk.”

Warning signage had been erected, advising the public of the situation, the city said. The City of Cape Town confirmed that Daily Maverick on Monday that Fish Hoek Beach was the only city beach currently closed to the public.

“The city is constantly monitoring the water quality and will immediately open Fish Hoek once the levels are within the minimum requirement for recreational activities as determined by the National Water Quality Guidelines,” it said.

Following the closure of Fish Hoek Beach, ActionSA has called on the City of Cape Town to, within seven days, confirm that the leakage of all sewage or untreated effluent into the environment (including all water sources) has been arrested.

“ActionSA notes, with dismay, the closure of yet another City of Cape Town beach due to a sewage overflow.

“The closure of Fish Hoek Beach follows on the heels of shocking photos and video footage of sewage streaming into Gordon’s Bay. Residents of Gordon’s Bay took to social media, repeatedly requesting the City of Cape Town to urgently prevent what they called a ‘colossal’ disaster,” said ActionSA Western Cape chairperson Michelle Wasserman.

Wasserman said the sewage infrastructure in the city had worsened over the past few years.

Addressing Cape Town’s ongoing sewage spills was a top priority for Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis upon his election as mayor in November last year. But, a year on, the city still has numerous sewage pollution issues, GroundUp‘s Steve Kretzmann reported.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Cape Town mayor bullish on solving the city’s sewage crisis but residents say much more needs to be done

“While eThekwini blamed their sewage problems on recent flooding that damaged infrastructure, the City of Cape Town cannot use the same excuse. It is rather the lack of preventive maintenance over many years that has caused the sewage problems in Cape Town,” Wasserman said.

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She said the “failure on the part of the DA-led City of Cape Town to maintain the city’s sewerage infrastructure is not only a violation of the constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, and to have the environment protected , but is also highly prejudicial to those in the tourism and hospitality sectors, whose livelihoods are reliant on clean coastal waters and open beaches.”

On priority beach days, like Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, beaches including Muizenberg, Strandfontein, Strand, Monwabisi and Camps Bay are among the busiest in the metropolis, according to the Mayco member for community services and health, Patricia van der Ross.

Durban

Durban’s beaches are facing an ongoing sewage crisis, with several sewage-fouled beaches closed to swimmers for the December holiday season. This comes after the April floods caused extensive damage to the metro’s decaying water and waste infrastructure — prompting the city to issue a stern warning to swimmers to stay out of the water until E. coli levels had dropped to safe levels.

“Damage caused by floods to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure was quite extensive,” eThekwini municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela told Daily Maverick.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “We all saw the Durban sewage crisis coming, but remained silent

“Work is currently under way in various areas to repair damages, whereas in other areas the work is completed. While there is significant progress with the repairs, there is still a challenge with others due to the extent of the damages. As such, some of the city’s beaches remain closed due to poor water quality,” said Mayisela.

According to a public notice on December 15, the following Durban beaches are closed for swimming:

  • Umhlanga Main;
  • Bronze;
  • Westbrook;
  • Battery;
  • Country Club;
  • Thekwini;
  • Lagoon;
  • Brighton;
  • Réunion;
  • Warner;
  • Winkelspruit; and
  • Umgababa.

The water quality at various beaches is tested regularly by a team of experts, said Mayisela.

“The decision was taken that water will be tested twice a week for three consecutive periods. Should the results show improvement, then a decision [will be] taken [on] whether to open or close beaches,” he said.

Only those beaches where the water quality had shown consistent improvement after several tests had been opened, he said.

According to a notice on December 15, the following Durban beaches are open for swimming:

  • Point;
  • uShaka;
  • Addington;
  • South Beach;
  • Wedge;
  • North Beach;
  • Bay of Plenty;
  • Anstey’s;
  • Toti Main;
  • Pipelines; and
  • Umdloti Main

But some beaches have been opened for swimming despite critical E. coli levels being recorded, reported The Conversation. The beaches of concern include Point and North Beach.

Mayisela said the metro was hopeful that the repairs to sewerage infrastructure would be completed by the end of December, with contractors hard at work fast-tracking repairs to major sewage networks.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Durban pledges ‘aggressive plan’ to clean up beach sewage pollution crisis before Christmas holidays

“Despite these challenges, Durban is still South Africa’s favorite playground and a destination of choice for many visitors,” he said. DM

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