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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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Residents call for alternative solution to sewage outfalls permits

Residents are part of the public participation process into marine outfalls discharge permits and have called for another solution. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane Independent Newspapers

Residents are part of the public participation process into marine outfalls discharge permits and have called for another solution. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane Independent Newspapers

Published Oct 30, 2023


Cape Town - Atlantic Seaboard residents are calling for an alternative solution as they are called to participate in public hearings on marine outfalls discharge permit applications, amid complaints of raw sewage being pumped into the marine environment, causing pollution and health risks.

The City of Cape Town and the Department of Forestry, Fishers and the Environment (DFFE) are hosting a 60-day public participation process where residents can submit their final comment by November 21 on the marine outfalls discharge permit applications for the wastewater treatment works (WWTW) in Mitchells Plain, Simon’s Town, Miller’s Point, Oudekraal and Llandudno.

But Peter Flentov of the Atlantic Seaboard community, who spoke on behalf of residents, said they were calling for another solution as the outfalls would bring pollution and health issues.

“Vast quantities of raw sewage are being discharged into the ocean at Three Anchor Bay, Camps Bay and Hout Bay on a daily basis.

“The public has complained about the smell and health risks associated with the marine outfalls for over a century, and the City has failed to address the core problem – the pumping of raw, untreated sewage into our marine environment.

“With increased densification on the Atlantic Seaboard, it is just a matter of time before a serious problem becomes a crisis.

“A sustainable solution will be costly, and there are few short-term solutions, but it is essential that the City start the planning process now,” he said.

The City said the three City-operated marine outfalls were located offshore, discharging beyond the intertidal zone at Hout Bay, Green Point and Camps Bay, and had gone through screening.

They said they were investing to improve wastewater treatment and upgrade sewers, which will benefit inland and coastal water quality, with a 226% increase in the overall infrastructure budget from R2.3 billion in 2022/23 to R7.8bn in 2025/26.

They added that an expert summary report on seven major studies into the outfalls concluded that “the marine outfalls are meeting their design objectives in reducing potential damaging ecological and/or human health effects of discharged effluent by taking advantage of increased effluent dilution offered by deep water”.

The DFFE is considering appeals after it granted permits for the three marine outfalls in Cape Town.

Minister Barbara Creecy has determined that the City should collate fresh public inputs to enable her to decide on the merits of the appeal.

Mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, councillor Zahid Badroodien, welcomed the feedback from residents.

“Residents and interested and affected stakeholders are encouraged to submit their comments about the marine outfalls applications for Hout Bay, Camps Bay and Green Point that are currently open for public comment until November 21,” he said.

“In the meantime, the City continues to operate the marine outfalls with its current permits and within its licence conditions that have been issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation/DFFE.”

Badroodien added that the City welcomed the opportunity to do this as since the initial public participation, seven major studies had been undertaken by different and independent marine science experts.

“This research has been published on the City’s website and shared with key stakeholders over time, and will now be of benefit to refreshed public participation on the outfalls,” he said.

The participation follows appeals by several organisations in January and February 2023 to the granting of the permits to the City to allow continued sewage disposal into the ocean.

Creecy said in her appeal decision in June that the City had failed to notify interested parties that the permits had been granted, or to make a public announcement regarding sewage release permits in 2019 and 2022.

The Sea Point Fresnaye Bantry Bay Ratepayers Association told the “Weekend Argus” they were preparing their objections and commentary.

Peter Mbelengwa of the DFFE said their offices had received appeals regarding the permits and therefore had called for the participation.

“During January and February 2023, the minister received four appeals against the decisions taken by the delegated authority within the DFFE to issue the coastal waters discharge permits to the City in respect of its discharge of untreated, but screened, sewage into the ocean via the Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay outfalls,” he said.

“An appeal was similarly lodged in respect of the Green Point and Camps Bay outfalls.

“On June 10, the minister issued an interim appeal decision in respect of all the appeals, in which the minister directed the City to undertake a specified public participation process (PPP) in respect of each permit. These PPPs are still ongoing.

“The minister is still steeped in the appeal process and that she can therefore not pre-empt any aspect that relates to her consideration of the pending appeals.”

Weekend Argus