Cape Town - Kayakers paddling around Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town, have been alarmed at the amount of pollution flowing out of three stormwater drains into the sea, and have taken samples to try to identify what it is.
Last month, a bright blue liquid poured out of the drains into the bay while a whale was breaching 150m offshore.
It was reported to the council and a sample taken, but so far no results have been forthcoming.
Last week, a white, foamy chemical-like substance was spotted and photographed.
Tracy Fincham, the owner of Kaskazi Kayaks, which operates from Three Anchor Bay, said the pollution had been bad for some time, but had worsened over the last two years.
“Yet nothing has been done by the authorities.”
Fincham said they were testing a few samples to see if they could find out what was in these discharges and others.
“I know there are e-coli because you can often smell the sewage.”
Priya Reddy, spokewoman for the City of Cape Town, confirmed a sample was taken by the Water Pollution Control Inspectorate and submitted for testing, but that the laboratory results were still pending.
“A combined team from Transport for Cape Town, the Environmental Resource Management Department and the Pollution Control section will be assessing the stormwater system and all points of possible pollutants and contamination,” Reddy said.
Last year, the issue of ocean pollution came under the spotlight when it emerged the council's marine outfalls were discharging up to 55 million litres of untreated effluent a day.
Marine photographer Jean Tresfon captured images from his gyrocopter showing sewage “plumes” at marine outfalls near Hout Bay and Green Point - close to popular tourist beaches.
He was one of a number of concerned Capetonians who made objections when the council asked for public comment when applying for a new permit via the Department of Environmental Affairs to discharge the wastewater into the marine environment.
“But we have heard nothing since then. They have not been very transparent about this process.”
Tresfon said he believed Cape Town was the best run metropole in the country, but had “dropped the ball” on this issue.
He works closely with Leslie Petrik, associate professor at the University of the Western Cape's department of chemistry, who warned last year that partially metabolised prescription drugs, pesticides, household disinfectants and even paracetemol and caffeine were some of the pollutants being pumped into the sea off the Atlantic Seaboard daily.
But Reddy said the Environmental Resource Management Department sampled a grid of 14 points around each of the three outfalls on an ongoing basis to monitor the water quality and rate of dispersion, as well as sample animal tissue and sediment to assess any chemical impacts.
“To date, the results all fall well within the national requirements and demonstrate no inshore health risk to bathers.”
She said the three outfalls were designed as high dispersion pre-screened and diluted outfalls as per global norms.
“The outfalls operate according to the licence standards and have been operational for 30 years.
“The effluent is both diluted to standards, passes through multiple screens and is dispersed as per engineering specs.”
Regarding the permit the council applied for, Reddy said the current rim outfalls had licences which authorised the discharge of wastewater to the sea, but that studies were being undertaken to inform the regulator on the conditions to be included in the permit, which was still to be issued.