Something rotten in Table View

Raw sewage spilled from this pipe at Table Bay Nature Reserve, on Friday. The affected area is about 1.4 km wide according to the City of Cape Town. Picture: Mandy da Matta

A sewage spill at the Table Bay Nature Reserve at the weekend has still not been cleaned up or cordoned off.

Only a handful of flimsy warning signs had been posted around the site by yesterday.

The sewage flooded a section of the reserve on Friday October 4.

Videos and pictures posted on Facebook by angry residents show effluent from an overflowing sewage pipe flooding the area.

Houses can be seen a few metres away and the grass around the spill appears to be dead.

The City blamed the spill on pump failure at the Table View pump station. The cause of the failure is being investigated.

Mayco member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg said it did not look like the spill had reached Rietvlei.

“The spill is estimated to be 1.4km from the edge of the Rietvlei water, and there is no flow to the Diep River and Rietvlei.”

However, she said, water samples from Rietvlei and Diep River would be checked to make sure.

Mobile diesel pumps were being used while the damaged one was fixed.

Two sewage spills, including this one, at the reserve had been reported this year. The first, on July 18, had been the result of vandalism and cable theft at the pump station, she said.

Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, said the City was assessing the situation to determine the best course of action.
“The cumulative impacts of regular sewage spills are of particular concern from an environmental perspective,” she said.

The City did not respond to Tabletalk’s requests for the latest water-quality readings at Rietvlei and Diep River.

There are frequent posts on Facebook about sewage spills in the reserve by residents.

In June a resident posted a video showing a section of the vlei littered with rubbish and faeces.

In recent weeks, Zandvlei Nature Reserve in Muizenberg had two sewage spills, forcing the City to close it to the public on Friday.

David Ayres, a member of the Greater Table View Action Forum (GTAF) who sits on the Table Bay Nature Reserve’s protected area advisory committee, wants to know what the long-term damage to the reserve is and how the City plans to rehabilitate it.

He believes the spill is the result of “ageing infrastructure and rampant, uncontrolled development” by the City.

The Table View Ratepayers’ Association (TVRA) wants to know what safety measures and clean-up actions are being implemented in the reserve after the spill.

TVRA Chairwoman Mandy da Matta said an open sewer-tank inspection hole close to the spill posed a grave danger to the public and wildlife. “The spill caused a reek that could be smelled two streets away,” she said.

Sewage spills and rampant development have also been tied to alarming pollution levels in the Milnerton lagoon (“Blues at the lagoon,” Tabletalk, August 21).

Civic organisations wanted to know why water readings could not be made public to warn people of poor water quality.

Last month, the Ward 55 committee tabled a motion, calling for the results of monthly and bi-monthly testing of inland and coastal water bodies by the City to be made public as soon as they are available.

“Failure to disclose such information could be construed as failing to act in the best interests of the public,” read the motion.

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said a coastal water quality report was being finalised.

“The technical report, which forms part of the overall report, has been completed and is currently undergoing internal review by all relevant City departments. Once the review is completed a detailed summary report will be released to the public,” said Mr Tyhalibongo.

Ms Limberg, said the water and sanitation department was generating an independent baseline report on inland water quality that would be released once a year.

“It is expected that the appointment of a service provider will take three weeks, with the project likely to take approximately four months to complete. In terms of inland water quality, sampling is done once a month. It is possible that raw data from this sampling could be provided to the sub-council. However, interpretation of this data requires highly specialised knowledge about water quality parameters.

“In most cases, the general condition of a particular water body does not change significantly over the course of one month, so there is limited value in directing resources towards increasing the frequency of reporting,” said Ms Limberg.