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Zeekoevlei now becomes third vlei to close due to sewage spills

Sewage has been flowing into the Zeekoevlei from a burst pipe on the eastern shore since Thursday last week. Picture: Supplied

Sewage has been flowing into the Zeekoevlei from a burst pipe on the eastern shore since Thursday last week. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 8, 2021


Cape Town - Zeekoevlei has become the third recreational vlei to be closed to the public following a massive sewage spill that allegedly started on Thursday last week.

The Rietvlei was closed last week Sunday, while the Zandvlei waterbody was closed on May 25.

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Friends of Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei vice-chairperson Tom Schwerdtfeger said this was the fourth major spill within a year in the vlei.

Schwerdtfeger said given the current Covid-19 pandemic and studies which had shown that the virus can be carried in sewage, the sewage spill presented serious health risks to residents living along the shores of Zeekoevlei and various water-user groups.

“The sewage spill disaster and the lack of effective action to contain it around it contradicts the City of Cape Town’s Water Strategy, which clearly states its commitments to the provision and facilitation of safe access to water and sanitation, to the growth of inclusivity and trust, to support ‘the rehabilitation of urban waterways and increase their value, and use for recreation, flood management and water supply’, and to protect natural environments,” he said.

Schwerdtfeger said volunteers were involved in the conservation of the endangered western leopard toad, and every year assisted these amphibians to across busy roads to reach their breeding sites.

“In recent years, the toads have returned to breed in Zeekoevlei due to the tireless efforts of all the volunteers who have assisted them across the roads over the years, as well as those who have made major contributions to improving water quality in Zeekoevlei, thus making it habitable once more for this endangered species,” he said.

Schwerdtfeger said the toad breeding season was due to commence in the next two months, but its success would be diminished if the water quality was not addressed.

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The residents appealed to the City of Cape Town to make information available immediately and called on the various departments, authorities and experts to work together to find long-term solutions to prevent the “ecological and social disasters” from occurring again.

Mayco member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg said the main cause of the overflow was not yet clear, however, various factors could be contributing to some degree.

"The City is currently using temporary pumps at the inlet works of the Cape Flats Wastewater Treatment Works while permanent pumps are in for repairs. Three of the four permanent pumps have experienced mechanical failure due to dumping into sewers.

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“Currently, everything from plastic to nappies to large objects like steel drums and gas cylinders can be seen jammed into the remaining screw pump. These will be cleared as soon as sump levels drop," she said.

Limberg said further investigations were planned to identify the extent to which new and undiscovered points of stormwater ingress, and its infiltration into sewers in the catchment were playing a role.

Provincial Environmental Affairs and Development Planning’s head of communication, Rudolf van Jaarsveldt, said the department received notification of the situation yesterday and will conduct necessary investigations.

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