Cape Town untreated sewage at sea

Now that the deadline for comments and objections regarding the City of Cape Town’s application for a permit to discharge untreated effluent into the sea has closed it appears that things have gone quiet…

Cape Town untreated sewage at sea
This image of the Green Point outfall from last week, Friday 21/8/2015… A huge plume well over 2km long was clearly visible in Table Bay, heading east towards Blouberg.

Despite Mayco Member for Utility Services Ernest Sonnenberg’s many statements to the press over the past few months that “the outfalls are properly functioning and do not pose a risk to the environment or beachgoers” it seems that this may not be the case…

Word in the diving industry is that the diffusers on the Green Point outfall are badly blocked and the City has appointed contractors to try and sort the problem out, which is proving challenging with the winter sea conditions.

This begs the question of how long this has been the case and why have inspection dives not been conducted at regular intervals to ensure everything is working as it should?

In any case the diffusers merely act as the “sprinkler on the end of the hosepipe” and don’t solve the real problem of putting toxic chemicals and untreated sewage in the sea in the first place.

On Friday last week (21 August 2015) I took journalist Martina Polley (“Waste water threat to Cape Town’s beaches” – Weekend Argus) on a flight to see firsthand how the outfalls are looking. The answer is BAD, about as bad as I have ever seen it!

Cape Town untreated sewage at sea
Not an unusual sight on a flight over Table Bay… a huge plume of untreated sewage from the Green Point outfall rises to the surface and drifts for several kilometres.

There was a huge plume from the Green Point outfall over 2km long, and the Camps Bay plume was clearly visible and being pushed straight back into the bay and onto the (Blue Flag) beach by the current.

But don’t worry,  Ernest says it’s all fine…

Cape Town untreated sewage at sea
The Camps Bay outfall (see red arrow) with the plume clearly being pushed back to the beach by the current. Remember Mayco Member for Utility Services Ernest Sonnenberg? He’s quoted in the press as saying “bacteria levels are controlled by locating the outfall in such a way that transport of wastewater to beaches was virtually eliminated”… Look at the photo again and tell me you agree…!

JEAN TRESFON is a South African marine conservation photographer who specialises in aerial and underwater photography. He flies several times a week specifically to keep tabs on our South African marine wildlife and regularly assists the authorities with shark and whale spotting.

To see more of Jean Tresfon’s photos and updates: