Pledge on safe beaches
REGARDING the article “Swimmers at risk on polluted city beaches” (Weekend Argus Saturday, November 9), the City of Cape Town takes the health and wellbeing of its residents very seriously and without compromise. We have stringent tests and measures in place to support this.
It is safe to swim at City of Cape Town beaches, unless otherwise advised. Should the water quality at a beach be deemed to be unsafe for swimming, warning signs will be erected by the city’s health department, advising the public accordingly.
The City of Cape Town’s reporting of the coastal water quality is in line with the authority guideline requirements.
The city monitors 68 beach sites with two analyses carried out twice a week, and 100 river sites monitored once a month, with upwards of 12 different tests being conducted by the laboratories. It is for this reason that we use summary statistics and not raw data in our metro-wide reporting due to the volume of tests being carried out.
Dr Barnes is employed as a subconsultant on one of our projects with full access to the project manager and aquatic specialist and we have never refused to provide information to her, research groups or people in general querying the quality of our coastal or inland waters.
The reason for the poor water quality along some parts of our coastline is that the water in the shallow, nearshore area gets trapped. Any pollution tends to remain in this area for longer periods. This phenomenon is due to sea currents which prevent this water from circulating and being flushed/replaced with seawater from further out in the bay, which we cannot control.
The source of the pollution is difficult to isolate to a single location. It is possible that pollutants entering the storm water system (including from sewer overflows and run- off from informal settlements) ultimately flows into beach areas via storm water outfalls which are contributing factors.
It should be noted that the 12-month period covered included the past winter when we experienced good winter rains. Rainfall washes pollution from the land and is also responsible for surcharging sewers (ie rain water ingress into sewers results in their capacity being exceeded and therefore overflows easily occur).
The sample locations that did not comply did so by a very small margin, which indicates that the pollution levels were relatively low.
We would like to reassure the public that it is safe to swim at these beaches as the margin of non-compliance is very small and does not render the beach unsafe.
Cape Town has eight beaches with blue flag status. We will continue using our resources to ensure that our residents and tourists use our facilities safely.