False Bay’s raw sewage hazard
Researchers, city team up after tests on beaches highlight presence of cholera-inducing pollutants, E coli
AN “apocalyptic” problem is developing along False Bay, which has affected marine life and may put beachgoers at risk because of mismanaged effluent from the Zandvlei Wastewater Treatment Works.
UCT deputy director of environmental humanities Professor Lesley Green said millions of litres of raw sewage had been dumped into Kuils River, entered Macassar beach and affected the neighbouring coast.
Green, who worked with UWC’s senior chemistry Professor Leslie Petrik, and UCT anthropology lecturer Nikiwe Solomon, conducted tests on the Kuils River and coastal areas, and said contaminants were found on False Bay beaches.
“When the report came out, I was so shocked. I contacted (ward councillor) Ganief Hendricks, who arranged for us to visit. We did water samples and took it to the SAB (South African Bureau of Standards) and the results were shocking,” said Green.
“It’s a terrible issue, False Bay is nearby, and it’s going to affect the health of people more broadly. The ecology of False Bay is fragile; we cannot keep pumping effluent out like that.
Green said the pollutants found could cause a cholera outbreak, and people close to the river were already experiencing chronic illnesses.
Petrik said the population had affected the Peninsula as beaches alongside the river were heavily contaminated with microbes.
“Everyone playing in the sand will pick up infections. E coli is one of them. There are many reports of E coli infections. I’m not a micro (biology) specialist, but I can read the data, and the data I’ve seen is very concerning.
“If it continues to infect the water, the wave water will spread microbes all along the beaches. I would be thinking twice about swimming in the beach and putting my child on the sand to play because pollution is really rife,” said Petrik, adding that fish caught in the False Bay area were also studied and found to contain high levels of chemicals such as painkillers, pesticides and antibiotics found in sewage.
The researchers contacted the City and the Department of Health for intervention, and are working on a way to address the situation.
Leader of the Al Jama-ah political party, and Hendricks said the party had made a presentation to Mayor Dan Plato with the researchers, and it was agreed that urgent action would be taken.
“We made two recommendations: one to alert the public of the danger in the ocean, and one to alert the industry that fish are being poisoned. He will look into allegations made by the professors.
“False Bay beaches are unsafe for recreational activities and swimming, and seafood products are unsafe for human consumption. Hundreds of residents close to harmful rivers are ill, and some have died. The party is assisting them with a possible class action,” said Hendricks.
Mayoral committee member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services and Energy Xanthea Limberg said the matter pertained to algae blooms in False Bay, a common occurrence off the coastline with no known toxins.
She said the city had the highest number of Blue Flag beaches in the country, and welcomed engagements by the researchers, and looked forward to seeing their findings.