For the first time since June, the Table Bay Nature Reserve’s Rietvlei is partially open to the public.
Residents and organisations in the area are demanding answers from the City of Cape Town. They want to know what steps are being taken to prevent the vlei being closed again.
The City closed Rietvlei to the public on Thursday June 24 after high levels of E coli were detected there. The public was warned to stay at least 150 meters away from the water (“City closes Rietvlei after pollution spike,” Tabletalk, June 30).
According to a City statement last week, the water is now safe for water sports, but the slipway and pier will remain closed until further notice and the public is asked to use the Milnerton Aquatic Club (MAC) slipway and pier instead.
The City said continuous water testing at the vlei over the past four months had found E coli levels that made the water unsafe for “intermediate contact”, but the vlei was now safe for water sports, according to recent tests.
But Andrea van Heerden, from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), said the City was unclear about the rehabilitative measures it was taking to prevent an algal bloom caused by the increased nutrients from the sewage.
Outa and the community also wanted a clear explanation of what had caused the massive sewage spills, why they had been allowed to continue for so long and what measures had been taken to make sure they did not happen again, she said.
Caroline Marx, head of the environmental portfolio of Milnerton Central Ratepayers’ Association, said she feared a resulting algal bloom – as had happened previously – could cause a large fish die-off and harm the area’s ecology.
“These algal blooms can produce cyanotoxins which can be dangerous to humans and other life and would mean the vlei would need to be closed again,” she said.
The City should be clear about what it planned to do to stop that happening, she said.
Friends of Rietvlei acting chairman Dave Honour welcomed the opening of the vlei and said: “Certainly any good news is welcome for the reserve, and we at Friends of Rietvlei fully support the decision to open up limited access to the public.”
The Friends of Rietvlei will meet at the reserve on Thursday November 25 at 6pm.
City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo told Tabletalk that the most recent tests had been done on Wednesday and Friday last week and weekly tests would be done to monitor E coli levels.
Mr Tyhalibongo said Friday’s tests showed E coli levels less than 33 cfu (colony forming units) per 100ml, which was suitable for sailing and any other water-based recreation.
In July, the City said E coli in the vlei was at 1000 cfu per 100ml, nearly 30 times more than what is considered safe.
Friday’s tests had confirmed lower levels of E coli near the public slipway and piers, but the City would only open them once a second set of results had confirmed the count was within allowable threshold levels for intermediate contact.
The flushing of foreign objects into the sewers and the illegal discharge of stormwater into sewer pipes had caused the high E coli levels that had closed the veli, he said.
“Insufficient capacity at sewer pump stations due to stormwater ingress or from repairs to pump sets can also be a contributing factor,” he said.
To prevent the problem from recurring, the public needed to be better informed about what could and could not be put into municipal sewers, he said.