Cape Town - Seaforth Beach and Waters Edge Beach in Simon’s Town have been closed for recreational use following a sewage spill.
The City said initial assessments indicated that the cause could have been a collapsed sewer linked to the rising sewer main and further assessments were under way to determine the shortest possible route to remedy the situation.
“As a result, City Health advises the public that both Seaforth and Waters Edge beaches are closed for recreation until such time that the spill has been contained, remediated and bacterial counts of the sea water return to normal levels. The public must avoid contact with the water until further notice, as a precaution,” the City said.
The City said signage was erected at both beaches, advising the public of the situation and alerting them that any person who entered the water did so at their own risk.
The impact of the spill on the sea water was being determined by City Health working with its coastal management and water and sanitation department while water samples at the beaches would be taken regularly to monitor bacterial numbers, the City reported.
On Monday, the City added that repeat water sampling, as per standard protocol, is ongoing and the beaches will be reopened only once testing confirms bacterial counts have returned to safe levels.
“Water quality results for Thursday’s samples, taken during the spill, showed very high bacterial levels. The City will advise as soon as the beaches are open again to the public.
“The public is reminded that results from each water sample take at least 48 hours,” the City said.
“The sewage spill that caused the closure was due to a break in the rising main pipeline in the vicinity of the parking area on Thursday 4 November 2021. The pipe was fully repaired the same day, the area was cleaned, and bio-enzymes were also applied.
“Furthermore, the road surface has been levelled until resurfacing can be completed. The reason for the break is still under investigation.”
However, marine environmentalist in the area Jon Monsoon said while the beach was closed and warning signs put up, most people had ignored them and carried on swimming and playing in the water.
Monsoon said while ocean health was often overlooked in the context of sewerage pollution, the pollution introduced a potent array of problems and pollutants to seas wherever it occurs.
“We are told that the type of pollution that emanated from Thursday’s spill would normally dissipate ’within 12 hours’ after entering the sea. It is my opinion that the transport and life cycle of raw sewerage pollutants once they enter the ocean needs further study, but what we can all agree on is that whenever raw sewerage ends up in the ocean, people, marine plants and animals are affected,” he said.
Monsoon said beyond the environmental impacts, sewerage spills of this nature threaten coastal identity and damage coastal economies.
“At a time when our marine ecosystem is under renewed pressure from a range of stresses (eg global warming, overfishing, avian flu), asking the ocean and its inhabitants and dependants to now tolerate a massive sewerage spill is not helping things,” he said.
This occurs while Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and the Milnerton Ratepayers and Residents Associations are calling for Cape Town water quality data be publicly and easily available. Outa said the City's reluctance to make water quality data routinely available publicly goes against transparency law and undermines accountability.
Outa senior legal project manager Andrea van Heerden said water quality data was not confidential information, nor does it contain trade secrets and therefore its disclosure outweighs any potential harm that the City might suffer.