Residents take issue with beach cleaners

Expanded Public Works Programme workers have been seen clearing kelp from the beach even though it helps to prevent dune erosion. The City is currently battling with beach erosion along the West Coast.

A Milnerton resident fears that conditions at Lagoon Beach will deteriorate due to the sloppy work of City of Cape Town staff employed to clean the beach.

Glen Huysamer lives at Woodbridge Island and frequents the beach almost every day. He says workers dropped off at the beach to remove litter sprawling the shoreline are wasting ratepayers’ money by shirking their duties and wasting resources.

One of his biggest gripes is the workers not filling the blue plastic bags to capacity.

“The workers have been filling the blue city bags by the number, hundreds if not a thousand or more blue bags have been used and stacked up for transport to the dump. The only problem with this is that not one is anywhere near full,” said Mr Huysamer.

He said most of the time the bags are also filled with kelp which is a natural beach product that should not be removed.

“Kelp is a natural defence mechanism against beach erosion and can help with building up the dunes. Any natural product should be left not taken to the dump that’s already full,” he said.

He said it has been weeks since Cape Town experienced the big storm and although he admitted that it left a big mess behind he believes there has been ample to time to clear things up.

“Two weeks ago volunteers brought plastic bags to the beach and started cleaning. Within three hours the beach was cleaned and over two hundred bags were filled with rubbish that was lying on the beach since the last, ‘mother of all storms’,” he said.

Barry Crowhurst lives opposite Woodbridge Island and visits the beach often. He believes all the bags used at the beach are a “waste of council money”.

“I see them filling these bags only a quarter full. I approached them to ask why and they say it’s too heavy which is nonsense,” said Mr Crowhurst.

Mr Huysamer believes this poor workmanship stems from the absence of an on-site manager to oversee the cleaning.

“My feeling is these workers don’t want to clean the beach. If it wasn’t for members of the public the beach would be a mess,” said Mr Huysamer.

Gregory Player, a member of the non-profit organisation Clean C, does monthly beach clean-ups at the Milnerton Lighthouse area.

Clean C promotes environmental awareness by cleaning beaches including Big Bay, Blaauwberg and Milnerton beach.

“We do not collect kelp, shells, wood or any natural items at our clean-ups. When we start our clean-ups we give people a briefing on what to collect and what not to collect. We only collect rubbish or litter,” said Mr Player.

He said it is important to shake off excess sand from rubbish to keep the bag as light as possible.

“If there is a bottle picked up with water in it or a chip wrapper filled with sand, we instruct people to shake the sand off. Sometimes bags do get heavy but because people don’t shake the sand off the items or if kelp is put in the bags it just makes it that much heavier,” he said.

The City of Cape Town says the beach workers are from the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which offers “on-the-job training”.

According to mayoral committee member for area north, Suzette Little, the EPWP workers cleaning the beach are given induction training and “training on an understanding of their daily duties”.

She said the blue plastic bags cost 97 cents each and are filled according to the “weight limit of the plastic”. “In cases where sand or heavy debris is being cleared, this can give the appearance that the bag is not being filled enough. These bags are then picked up by a cleansing team later in the day unless there is a service interruption of some kind,” she said.

She said there is a kelp removal node at Milnerton Beach which extended from the slipway opposite the lifesaving facilities in the south to Maestro’s restaurant in the north.

“In this zone kelp is currently removed. Beyond this zone the City does not remove kelp but instead advocates that kelp is left in its natural distribution along the beach when it washes up. This natural distribution not only contributes to beach ecology but it assists with raising beach levels, which in turn slows the rate of erosion. The City regularly engages with EPWP workers with regard to where kelp can and cannot be removed. Due to team management and staff frequently changing in the EPWP, this process of engagement is ongoing. The City will, however, engage with the EPWP team again and remind them not to remove kelp outside of the kelp removal node,” she said.

She added that the City is currently reviewing its kelp cleansing plan with the intent of further reducing the number of areas from which kelp is removed from Cape Town’s beaches.