Up to 12.5 million litres of sewage discharged daily into this Cape Town bay
The City of Cape Town’s own data has shown that it is releasing way more sewage into the sea than it is permitted to.
Data obtained by ActionSA has revealed that the City of Cape Town is exceeding its allowed sewage discharge into the ocean at Hout Bay.
This violation of the discharge permit – granted by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment – has led ActionSA to file a criminal charge under the Integrated Coastal Management Act.
In October, ActionSA in the Western Cape announced their intention to file a criminal complaint against the City of Cape Town, after uncovering records of the City’s poor management of sewer systems. Read more here.
According to The Conversation, the sewage released in Hout Bay does not meet minimum effluent discharge standards, and undergoes minimal treatment before it is pumped through a pipe that extends 1.7km out to sea. Instances of the City exceeding daily volume limits have been recorded, with over a billion litres released from this marine outfall in six months.
Michelle Wasserman, ActionSA provincial chairperson, obtained information through a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application, revealing that the City violated special conditions in the marine outfall discharge permit for Hout Bay.
STAGGERING SEWAGE VOLUMES
Data shows the City pumped more than the agreed five million litres of sewage per day from the outfall on 104 out of 181 days in the first six months of 2023.
On six of these days, the City released over double the allowed maximum volume, reaching 12.5 million litres on one day, surpassing the pipe’s designed capacity of 9.6 million litres a day.
This means that over the period, the City released over one billion litres of sewage into Hout Bay, exceeding the maximum allowed flow of 905 million litres.
The City’s data reveals that the quality of sewage did not meet minimum standards either, with elevated levels observed for suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand and pH. Some days had no records of these parameters, while weekly assessments for arsenic, cadmium, calcium, copper, chromium, cyanide, and mercury were also not provided as required.
The City’s response to Wasserman’s PAIA request revealed that the City failed to establish a required Permit Advisory Forum, which is mandated by the 2019 permit.
Wasserman submitted an affidavit, asserting that the City’s non-compliance falls foul of the Integrated Coastal Management Act 2008, and urged police to investigate the further.
Regarding the Green Point and Camps Bay outfalls, Wasserman did not request monitoring results as permits for these outfalls were only issued in December 2022 and January 2023 respectively, meaning a significant amount of monitoring data would not yet have been collected.
THE CITY’S RESPONSE
City Water and Sanitation Mayco member Zahid Badroodien is confident the City has complied with the current permits and welcomed Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment Minister Barabara Creecy’s call for a public participation process on the granting of permits for the three marine outfalls in the city.
“The City continues to operate the marine outfalls with current permits and licence conditions as issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation/DFFE,” he said.
Badroodien said the City has initiated a study to assess the feasibility and cost of treating sewage before releasing it into the ocean, or redirecting it to existing sewage treatment facilities.
A preliminary scoping report is currently under review he said, with plans for additional community involvement upon its finalisation.