Pledge on safe beaches

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

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.

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