Milnerton residents want the City of Cape Town to “rethink the stink” as sewage spills and polluted water continue to plague the area.
Last week, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) posted a video clip on YouTube that asked Milnerton residents to tell how the Milnerton Lagoon sewage affects them.
Outa and civic groups such as the Milnerton Central Ratepayers’ Association (MCRA) are seeking a solution to the problem.
In the latest spill, on Sunday June 14 at the Koeberg Road pump station, sewage ran into the Diep River.
According to Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste services, a power cut to the pump station and a circuit breaker fault there caused the spill.
“Initially, when the Eskom supply failed, the pump station’s generator took over,” she said. “However, the subsequent electrical fault with the circuit breaker, at the pump station resulted in the pumps failing and an overflow occurring.”
Six days later, on Saturday June 20, a resident posted a YouTube clip showing the raw sewage still spilling into the Diep River. But Ms Limberg claimed the spill had been resolved on June 14.
“The leak on the rising main coupling pipework was not anticipated as it occurred outside the pump station on the rising main chamber,” she said.
MCRA committee member Peter Walsh said the spill had continued until Wednesday June 24. When an MCRA member had visited the site with a member of the Green Scorpions on Friday June 26, the discharge had stopped, said Mr Walsh.
“It’s a ‘river of sewage’ everywhere you look in the greater Milnerton area. Our beaches and rivers / estuary are unfit for human use,” he said.
For months, Outa has been doing independent water tests of samples taken near the Potsdam Waste Water Treatment Works.
In February, their results showed the E coli levels in the Diep River, which runs into the lagoon, were 45 times the safe limit near the water-treatment plant.
The following month the levels were 57 times the safe limit.
The latest results, from a May 20 test, show 102 000 E coli per 100ml of water – more than 100 times the general safe limit of 1000 E coli per 100ml of water.
It was the highest level ever recorded at the sampling point, said Andrea Korff, Outa’s legal project manager, in a press release.
“What is even more of a concern is that our water test results for the past couple of months show how the E Coli levels at our sampling points have drastically worsened, despite the City claiming that the water quality is improving. As active citizens, we should never confuse movement with action.”
She said the City seemed to be taking “one step forward but two steps back”.
Ms Limberg said any drop in water quality was not due to worsening treatment quality at Potsdam.
The City’s samples taken at the end of the treatment process on site reflected wastewater quality that was compliant with standards and that had been the case for the past few months after repairs on site had been completed, she said.
The misuse of sewers; illegal sewer and stormwater connections in overcrowded informal settlements; agricultural activity upstream; and rainfall washing a build up of contaminants on the streets into the rivers were more likely causes of deteriorating water quality, she said.
The City was taking steps to address pollution of the Diep River and Milnerton Lagoon and they were detailed at monthly sub-council meetings, she said.
Some of the measures the City has alluded to in the past include water quality monitoring, removal of litter from stormwater outlets and “polluted water” signage at Milnerton Lagoon..
Report sewer overflows or pump station failures to the City’s call centre at 0860 103 089.