Call for urgent action on water woes

Three children playing next to brown water at Lagoon Beach on Sunday. Residents say the colour of the water is further evidence of pollution problems in the area.

The City must speed up plans to upgrade sewage pump stations and treatment plants because pollution is getting so bad along Milnerton’s coast that they can’t wait, say residents.

Xanthia Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, has told Tabletalk previously that the City and Province have an action plan to sort out the pollution problem (“Call for ministers to tackle city water pollution crisis,” Tabletalk, July 14).

Projects she pointed to in the Diep River catchment include a R2.2billion upgrade to the Potsdam sewage plant due for completion in August 2025; stormwater-to-sewer diversions to account for land invasions in Dunoon/Doornbach set for completion in 2023; the completion in June 2020 of a Dunoon bulk upgrade; the upgrade of the Koeberg Road pump station (including stormwater-to-sewer diversions) to be completed by July 2022; a bulk sewer upgrade in Montague Gardens; and the installation of litter traps in stormwater outlets by the end of 2021.

But Caroline Marx, head of the environmental portfolio for the Milnerton Central Ratepayers’ Association, said the City’s efforts so far had done little to improve water quality.

“The shockingly high E coli levels measured in July and August 2021 in the Diep River, Milnerton Lagoon and Rietvlei were the worst we can find recorded. But an E coli infection is far from the only danger. The contaminated water could contain pathogens such as dysentery, cholera, listeria, typhoid, worms etc.

“While Lagoon Beach has been unsafe for swimming for several years, the pollution appears to be now affecting Lighthouse Beach which is also recently zoned as unsafe for swimming. This not only can be dangerous to health, but it also affects the local business and is causing job losses,” she said.

A Milnerton resident posted a photo on Facebook on Sunday showing three children playing on the shoreline of Lagoon Beach, near brown water, which several residents suggested was further evidence of water pollution.

Resident Megan Cupido said: “People come to enjoy the water, and they are met with this. Some don’t know that the water is polluted. They probably think that the water looks that way and there isn’t any signs to tell them not to use the water. I would rather have them close the beaches until this issue is sorted out.”

This picture was taken on Monday August 16.

Some residents said those who fell ill would not necessarily link it to their visit to the beach and so the problem continued to go unnoticed and the City did not take the blame.

Ms Marx said the pollution had been getting worse every year for at least six years despite promises to fix it.

“The Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works upgrade, sewage pump stations upgrade and the other projects planned need to be urgently fast tracked before the environment and local economy are damaged any further. Many of these projects were planned 10 years ago, they have just not been delivered. Had they been completed as planned, we would not be in this situation today,” she said.

Tabletalk sent questions on Monday morning to the City but it did not respond by time of publication.