South Africa


City of Cape Town dragging its heels on rehabilitation of Rietvlei wetlands, claims Milnerton Aquatic Club

Private tests of water in Rietvlei have found lower levels of E. coli than the City of Cape Town’s tests. (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks)

Club commodore says no action has been taken despite hazardous pollution and high E. coli prevalence. 

First published by GroundUp.

Members of the Milnerton Aquatic Club, based at Rietvlei, are worried that the City of Cape Town has not started to rehabilitate the water. This comes after the club conducted its own water quality tests and found that the level of E. coli in the water was much too high for safe direct recreational contact. Rietvlei has been closed since late June.

Katja Haslinger, the conservation officer at the club, said that when they started doing their own water quality tests, the results were “shocking”.

Results are measured in colony-forming units (cfu) of E. coli (a bacteria found in human faeces) per 100ml. The City considers measurements of more than 4,001 cfu/100ml to pose an “unacceptable risk” to public health.

On 7 September, Haslinger said they measured up to 9 million cfu/100ml coming from the bulk stormwater outlet from Blaauwberg Road. About a week later on 15 September, they measured 2.7 million cfu/100ml coming from another stormwater outlet.

Haslinger said that they are worried sewage spills upstream at Rietvlei are still ongoing.

Earlier this month, GroundUp published the water quality tests provided by the City of Cape Town for three vleis that have been closed for months due to E. coli pollution. Test results taken in Rietvlei on 24 August were all above 23,000 cfu/100ml, with the highest sampling point measuring at 53,000 cfu/100ml (at a buoy near the Bayside canal outlet).

But that data is now one month old, said Haslinger, and it is unclear whether things are better or worse. “Due to the fact that the sewage spills further upstream are still ongoing, we doubt that the Rietvlei waterbody will improve soon,” she said.

Brian Webb, the club’s Commodore, said that they have found at least three sources of sewage flowing into the vlei.

“We’re not seeing any action,” he said.

Webb said the club has also struggled to get a response from the City on developments for sorting out the pollution in Rietvlei.

The Green Scorpions confirmed to GroundUp that it is currently looking into several matters of pollution of the environment as a result of sewage spills in Rietvlei, as well as Zandvlei and Zeekoevlei.

Green Scorpions environmental management inspectors have also served the City a series of enforcement notices, according to Rudolf van Jaarsveldt, spokesperson for Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs.

He said the City is implementing rehabilitation measures to address the pollution.

Van Jaarsveldt said the City’s sewage system is under strain from vandalism and ageing infrastructure, and the growth of both formal and informal settlements.

“The City has doubled in population over the past 20 years,” he said.

The City failed to respond to our questions sent on Monday. DM

Brian Webb, Commodore at the Milnerton Aquatic Club, said they will be demonstrating every month to raise awareness to the pollution in Rietvlei. (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks)

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  • The CoCT has been aware of these sewage infrastructure failures for some years but has done nothing substantial to rectify the problems. They have simultaneously done whatever they can to restrict information to the public on the extent of the problem.
    They have not responded meaningfully to letters I and others have written.
    There needs to be some thorough investigative journalism done to expose why the DA lead COCT has failed to provide adequate sewerage infrastructure.

    • It seems to me that Alan Keen (AK) should get one or two muckers from the community mentioned and make a call, personally, to offices of the CoCT. A municipality SWAMPED with mob-led ANC antagonistic action just has an incredible load on its shoulders.
      Has AK tried entering one of those formidable mob-led ANC hatcheries, to investigate the sewer problems, where radicalised youth, against any white person, brings serious threats to town council efforts in almost every area of endeavour.
      These comments written above will build up a negativity difficult to undo, about a PERCEPTION of the DA…and undermine the Western Cape’s circumstance.
      Yes, write about these episodes, but, the discreet and probably more successful approach is to personally play a role, in action. This ‘get there’ approach will be (a) more effective, I am sure, and (b) help protect what you have in that province, politically.
      Viewed from afar, here in KZN, the EFF has radicalised serious attitudes against ALL whites, pro- anti-apartheid folk included, and is what needs a to be born in mind.
      It is many informed here who are seriously concerned thatthe EFF will win Durban (iThekwini) Municipality in a month’s time – a party committed to Marxist-Leninism (so they proclaim).
      The Rietvlei e-coli ISa serious problem, but the life-threatening lack of Parliament’s action to quieten and make safe the terrorised flats of the Western Cape is surely more pressing, and worthy of Alan Keen’s letters as well.

  • Carrying Capacity exceeded again. Too many people. Too little infrastructure upgrade. Its not rocket science. Hard policy decisions need to be made. No more rapid development and urban expansion until the support infrastructure is expanded. A point has already come where the waste water needs to be recycled for human consumption / use.

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