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Residents call the 'Green Scorpions' to issue directive against City on ongoing sewage spills

MASSIVE sewage spill into the Big Lotus River which resulted in Zeekoevlei pollution.

MASSIVE sewage spill into the Big Lotus River which resulted in Zeekoevlei pollution.

Published Nov 15, 2021

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Cape Town - The Friends of Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei are waiting with bated breath for the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning to issue the City with a directive on the ongoing sewage spills in the Zeekoevlei.

This after a sewage spill into the Big Lotus River resulted in pollution of the Zeekoevlei pollution on Thursday morning.

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Recently released water quality results by the City on Zeekoevlei, taken on October 29 at three of the five different sampling points in the vlei, showed more than 100 000 cfu (colony forming unit per 100ml).

A sampling point at Home Bay in front of Zeekoevlei Yacht Club showed 980 000 cfu while 940 000 cfu was recorded opposite the inlet of Big Lotus River.

In July the “Green Scorpions” issued the City with a pre-directive pertaining to pollution in the False Bay Nature Reserve, Zeekoevlei, and gave it seven days to make representations as to why a directive in terms of Section 28 of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) should not be issued.

Friends of Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei (FoZR) vice-chairperson Tom Schwerdtfeger said after the club’s contact with the department after the spill, they had received positive feedback.

Schwerdtfeger said they were made aware that a final directive was being drafted by the provincial Department of Environmental Affair’s law enforcement unit for non-compliance with one of the pre-directives previously issued.

“After three months of exposure to sewage pollution we are concerned about the increase of fish fatalities in Zeekoevlei.

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“The impact on the breeding season for the endangered Western Cape Leopard Toad is also unknown at this time. We are obviously also concerned about the potential health impact on the communities living on the banks of the Big Lotus River,” he said.

Schwerdtfeger said in October that a group of residents from Zeekoevlei met with soon-to-be-inaugurated Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis who promised that priority would be given to ensure that necessary capital and support was provided to ensure efficient operation of the Cape Flats Waste Water Treatment Works and the associated delivery infrastructure.

Head of the water quality sub-committee for the Table Bay Nature Reserve Caroline Marx said sewage pollution at all three vleis had the same underlying major cause of inadequate or dysfunctional sewage systems.

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She said these were not once-off isolated incidents but reflected the growing inability of Cape Town’s sanitation system to cope.

The City’s spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said the flow from the Big Lotus River was currently being diverted to sewer due to pollution/sewer blockage challenges in the catchment and that this has been in place for several weeks.

“Zeekoevlei is also still linked to other parts of the City’s stormwater system, however, and remains vulnerable to the impact of sewer overflows in the catchment, mainly from foreign objects being dumped into sewer lines.

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“These smaller overflows, mostly avoidable with correct use of sewers add up and cumulatively can seriously impact water quality,” he said.

Tyhalibongo added that the City was planning to undertake various remedial activities in all the vleis such as dredging and macrophyte harvesting, in order to mitigate the pollution events.

However, he said these rehabilitation options available would have limited effect on water quality if the source of the pollution wasn't addressed.

He stated the City continued to investigate all sources of pollution and taking action to prevent pollution from impacting on the vleis.

Environmental Affairs and Development Planning head of communication Rudolf van Jaarsveldt had been notified of the incident and said that the City had informed the department that they were attending to it.

Van Jaarsveldt said the department was currently investigating the matter and based on the findings further action would be considered.

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