Pollution closing city wetlands one by one

Rietvlei is one of three wetlands that have been closed in recent months because of dangerously high pollution levels.

Milnerton and Table View residents want to know when Rietvlei – one of three Cape Town wetlands closed in recent months because of pollution – will reopen.

The City closed the vlei at the end of June because E coli levels were 30 times higher than what is considered safe. But the vlei is still closed and the public want answers.

Earlier this month, mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg said the City was investigating the cause of the pollution and hinted that the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works was likely to blame. She said that due to very heavy rains the vlei had broken its banks and flooded the pump station at the Potsdam plant damaging pumps and motors (“Rietvlei remains closed for further testing,” Tabletalk, July 7).

Trent Muller, of Table View, said conditions at the pump station near the Table View Football Club could also be aggravating the E coli problem in Rietvlei.

“Every time I drive near on the R27 behind the soccer club, there’s always this terrible smell in the air. What is taking the City so long? It has been more than three weeks now. Surely they have identified the problem(s) and all must have been sorted by now, right?”

Rietvlei is just one of three of the city’s environmentally sensitive water bodies to close in recent months because of dangerously high E coli levels. On May 25, Zandvlei in Muizenberg closed, and earlier this month, Zeekoevlei, near Grassy Park, closed due to a sewage spill.

Lizette Kingsley, of Table View, believes unchecked development and overpopulation are straining the City’s sewers and causing the spills.

“The sewage overflows then go into the stormwater run-off and pollute our vlei, the Diep River. But the City doesn’t want to entertain this idea that it’s their own doing by letting so many people live in such concentrated areas,” she said.

Another Table View resident, Chris Boom, said vagrants living along the canal between the R27 and Table View Shopping Centre were also adding to the pollution problem.

“For years, there have been vagrants who live there, and they use that place as their personal toilet. Their human waste goes into the canal and flows to the vlei. A similar thing is happening to the Diep River. The City knows this but seems to be powerless to stop it,” he said.

According to Mark Rountree, the national policy officer for the Good Party, our wetlands are of international importance and “South Africa has a global duty to protect the priority wetland systems that it designates.”

Mr Rountree said he had written to Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy and Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to intervene (“Call for ministers to tackle city water pollution crisis,” Tabletalk, July 14).

The City did not respond, by time of publication, to Tabletalk’s questions about plans to clean and reopen the vlei. However, Ms Limberg said sewer-upgrade projects were under way in the Milnerton and Table View areas:

• R2.2 billion in upgrades to the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works are set to be completed by August 2025.

• Stormwater to sewer diversions – to address the impact of land invasions in Dunoon/Doornbach – are being designed for completion in 2023. A Dunoon bulk upgrade was completed in June last year.

• The upgrade of the Koeberg Road Pump Station (including the construction of stormwater to sewer diversions in Montague Gardens) is due to be completed by July next year.

• The size of the Montague Gardens bulk sewer pipeline is being increased. The city council is this week set to approve the procurement of engineering services for this project.

• Stormwater outlet litter traps are to be installed citywide by the end of the year.