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ActionSA fights to stop discharge of sewage into the ocean in Cape Town

City maintains there is 'no evidence of deleterious marine impacts'

An aerial view of Camps Bay in Cape Town. Stock photo.
An aerial view of Camps Bay in Cape Town. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/fokkebok

The government’s decision to allow the City of Cape Town to continue pumping sewage into the ocean off Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay for another five years — which officials insist is within acceptable environmental limits — is being challenged by ActionSA. 

The department of forestry, fisheries and the environment (DFFE) recently approved the permit. 

“Numerous agencies and universities have researched the negative impact of these sewage outflows on the environment. The University of Stellenbosch fiercely opposed the previous permit application in 2015, providing reasons that have neither been addressed nor mentioned in the current DFFE permit approval,” said ActionSA provincial chairperson Michelle Wasserman. 

The party is rallying residents and civil society groups to appeal against the permit approval.

Siseko Mbandezi, acting mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, said in response the permit was approved because “all three outfalls are operating within the limits of marine environmental standards as determined by current pollution guidelines with no associated evidence of deleterious marine impacts”. 

Wasserman pointed out that the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) had questioned the legality of discharging sewage into a Marine Protected Area. “To pump raw sewage into a Marine Protected Area is a clear violation of our constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to health,” she added. 

She said the party had met its attorneys and was formulating an appeal against the decision by the DFFE. 

South African adventurer and sustainable development adviser Zirk Botha, speaking on eNCA, said continuously pumping sewage into the ocean was “unacceptable”. However, he acknowledged it was a “Catch-22” situation as municipalities struggled to meet the rising infrastructure demands of a growing population. 

Mbandezi told TimesLIVE the city was continuously working towards reducing environmental pollution and stressed that sewage was screened to remove solids before discharge into the ocean. “This includes multibillion-rand upgrades to wastewater treatment works and the sewer network which will have a meaningful positive impact on inland and coastal water quality.  

“The city is in addition assessing the feasibility of measures to further mitigate the environmental impact of the three coastal outfalls, including additional higher level pre-treatment on land prior to discharge.” 

There is a long, and controversial, history of sewage being discharged into the sea.

Before the 1920s at Green Point, sewage was discharged at the beach until a small pipe was extended into the sea. “In the 1980s this was then built and upgraded as a proper designed deep sea marine outfall in accordance with coastal engineering requirements to extend over 1.7km out to sea,” said Mbandezi.  

“At Camps Bay there was also just a shore discharge which was changed to a proper deep sea marine outfall in the late 1970s. At Hout Bay there was a shore discharge just on the Sentinel side of the harbour until a proper outfall was built in late 1980s early 1990s.” 


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