Table View’s sewage stench is back

Last year, the City blamed the smells on stalled sludge clearance at the Potsdam sewage plant.

The stench of sewage, which plagued Table View this time last year, is back.

Residents say the smell gets so bad that they have to keep doors and windows closed, despite the summer heat.

Last year, the City blamed the smells on stalled sludge clearance at the Potsdam sewage plant – the result of a lapsed contract (“Stalled sludge removal at sewage works causes stink,” Tabletalk, January 14, 2021).

Work to remove the sludge started later that month after a three-year, R200 million contract was signed (“City removes sludge from sewage plant,” Tabletalk, February 3, 2021). However, it took at least three more weeks for the stench to clear (“Table View still plagued by sludge stench,” Tabletalk, February 17, 2021).

Residents say that while the smell never really went away, it became much less offensive. That was until a few weeks ago when the pungent stench returned, and Fiona Strydom, of Table View, say it’s worse than ever, especially around Flamingo Vlei.

“I have to work from home, with closed windows and doors because I can’t breathe with the hanging smell of sewer in the air,” said Ms Strydom.

Raw sewage, she said, was being dumped into the Diep River, which runs behind her house.

“The water is sickening and can’t flow because the reeds have taken over so there is no water movement. The wildlife has gone, and the flies are driving us crazy. We can’t live like this. Cape Town is meant to boast natural beauty, yet we have this.”

She believes Cape Town’s water-and-sanitation systems should be on the list of top priorities when the State of the Province Address is delivered next month.

Johan Smit, who has lived in Table View for 42 years, blamed inaction by City officials for what he said was the demise of the neighbourhood.

“This is a true reflection of what the City planning department and the DA are about,” he said. “They don’t care much because money talks.

“They have forced the high-density policy on to the residents against their will. Part of the problem is that the residents are to blame as well. When they need to object to matters, it is always just a few. One doesn’t see them at ratepayers’ meetings – they are ‘too busy and don’t have the time’. The planning department is destroying the area with high density.”

Upgrading the Potsdam plant was a temporary solution because a modern mega plant – built near the Koeberg nuclear power station – was needed, he said.

David Ayres, of the Greater Table View Action Forum, said the City should “stop all future developments until such time as the City has the infrastructure capacity to deal with the increased demand placed on it by the rampant overdevelopment of the area”.

Catherine Austin, another Table View resident, also called for a halt on development until there was better infrastructure.

Mayoral committee member for water Dr Zahid Badroodien conceded that Table View had been exposed to poor health and living conditions.

“I would like to apologise for this and reassure residents that the situation affecting all of our water bodies across the city is receiving the highest attention possible.

“It is my intention that, together, we will set a new course that will restore our recreational water bodies and water channels to a pristine condition.

“I know that residents are all frustrated and angry and have waited too long for meaningful interventions. Please be reassured that our renewed focus is a sincere attempt to resolve this matter in a sustainable and lasting manner.”

Dr Badroodien said the City was renewing its focus on cleaning debris from the Diep River.

“The City has some innovative partnerships that we want to formalise and employ within the Diep River waterway. I’ll continue to share more information about the projects in future,” he said.

Milnerton residents have also complained about this water body near Milnerton High School which also emits bad smells in the community.

Meanwhile, Rietvlei remains closed after high E coli results were recorded at the end of December (“City closes Rietvlei on account of E coli – again,” Tabletalk, December 30, 2021).

The City closed the vlei in June last year because of high levels of E coli and partially reopened it in November (“City closes Rietvlei after pollution spike,” Tabletalk, June 30, 2021).

Last week, the City told Tabletalk that R10 billion was to be spent on water-and-sanitation infrastructure over the next three years (“R10bn for water, sanitation network – City,” Tabletalk, January 12).

Residents welcomed that but said they wanted to see immediate action because they feared for their and their families’ health.

The City and Dr Badroodien did not respond, by time of publication, to questions about the possible source of the stench.