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Stink over 'illicit' disposal of waste water effluent in Table View reserve

A picture posted by a conservation group shows an open sluice gate at the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Plant, allowing effluent into the Diep River /Table Bay Nature Reserve.

A picture posted by a conservation group shows an open sluice gate at the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Plant, allowing effluent into the Diep River /Table Bay Nature Reserve.

Published May 18, 2021

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Cape Town - Conservation lobby group ReThinkTheStink says it has caught the City red handed disposing of waste water effluent into Table Bay Nature Reserve and Diep River through what it says is an illegal discharge point.

A video posted by the group recorded on May 3 shows an open sluice gate at the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Plant allowing effluent into the Diep River/Table Bay Nature Reserve.

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ReThinkTheStink member Peter Walsh said it occurred while the City and Potsdam treatment plant was under a directive, and this, he said, clearly showed that the City did not feel threatened by this fact, given their behaviour.

“They could be releasing treated or untreated sewage. However NEMA does not allow for the unlawful discharge of untreated wastewater into a nature reserve, never mind via an illegal discharge point. Disposal has to be through the legal official discharge points.

“What they did is illegal and they continue to do it. One should ask why? We have proof that they continuously discharge illegally outside the bounds of their water use licence, otherwise we would not have pollution in the lagoon,” he said.

Walsh said the City was constantly laying blame at the door of Dunoon and Joe Slovo for something that it was ultimately responsible for.

“Its therefore hypocrisy and targeted harassment by Xanthea Limberg of these under-resourced areas when your own WWTW are discharging hundreds of thousands of litres of contaminated water into a nature reserve.

The sewage from Joe Slovo and Dunoon pales into comparison when compared to the systemic discharge of waste water from illegal discharge points,” he said.

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The Greater Table View Action Forum Planning (GTAF) and Biodiversity head David Ayres said the City cannot be trusted to protect the environment and service delivery.

Ayres said the opening of the sluice gates was a typical action from a City that knows that the Potsdam Wastewater Plant exceeded its design capacity but continued to allow and promote a densification policy that allowed thousands of new dwellings in the Table View area.

“GTAF calls for a ban on new developments until the City can prove it has installed adequate infrastructure to cope with the development plans,” he said.

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City of Cape Town’s mayco member for water and waste, Limberg, said during the recent meeting with Outa, MCRA and the Western Cape provincial government, the flow through the sluice gate was raised and the City advised that it would investigate and provide feedback to Outa by the end of this month.

Limberg said preliminary investigations found that process controllers had no other choice but to open the valves/sluice gates at long pond to relieve the high levels experienced due to the stormwater inflow in Long Pond and reed beds and due to the impacts of the current pond cleaning exercise in order to prevent the pond walls from collapsing and potentially creating significant additional pollution.

"When staff opened the sluice gates at the long pond, given the fact that there is no other outlet to lower the level, chlorine disinfection chips were used to minimise the impact of E coli on the river despite a discharge only comprising treated effluent," she said.

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Limberg said this was not raw sewage but was treated effluent and that the point of discharge was not an unofficial discharge point, but the plant’s official discharge point as noted in its water use licence.

Environmental Affairs and Development Planning head of communication Rudolf van Jaarsveldt said the department was aware of the situation and was engaging with the City on the matter.

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