Solutions demanded on sewage disposal


A GROUP of 160 civic organisations has urged the Department of Environmental Affairs to refuse the City of Cape Town’s application to continue pumping raw sewage into the Atlantic – unless the City comes up with a plan to phase out sewage-to-sea outfalls.

The Greater Cape Town Alliance, an umbrella body of 160 civic, environmental, ratepayer and resident groups, said the time had come for “new, innovative, environmentally friendly solutions” for sewage disposal.

“These outfalls were built 25 or more years ago, when there was less knowledge about the harmful effects of raw sewage in the sea, and the quantities were very much lower than today. We cannot believe the city is unaware of the well-documented discovery of raw sewage floating off Camps Bay/Green Point by kayakers and divers”, the alliance wrote.

The City is required to get public comment when applying to the national government for a discharge permit. The renewal permits apply to the sewerage outfall pipes in Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay.

Unlike other areas in the city where sewage is treated in sewerage works before the effluent is discharged, the sewage that goes out in these three pipes is not treated in this way. Mesh removes the “rubbish” such as plastic, rags and other material.

The Hout Bay outfall pipe is about 2.2km long, the Green Point pipe 1.7km and Camps Bay pipe 1.5km. The idea is that the pipes are long enough for currents to disperse and dilute the sewage.

However, surfers and kayakers have said there are times when the sewage comes back towards the shore.

Surfer Greg Bertish said yesterday: “In winter, the westerlies often blow it back, or a big swell. You see it floating around, a mass of stuff all congealed with a bad smell.

“I put it at the back of my mind because I like to surf there, but some guys won’t. I have had a bacterial infection which attacked a heart valve, and other surfers have got hepatitis.”

Gavin Smith, of the Alliance, said yesterday many cities discharged raw sewage to sea, but there were also cities that had advanced to better solutions.

“The City is not going to find the millions to rectify this overnight. The only way to get them moving is for Environmental Affairs to turn down their permit, or make it conditional that the City starts developing a long-term plan to move away from dumping raw sewage at sea,” Smith said.

The City’s permit application speaks of anticipated sewage flows until 2030, an indication that this system will be in place for at least another 15 years.

The City said anticipated volumes of sewage to sea at Hout Bay are 11 300m3 a day, at Camps Bay 3 500m3 a day and at Green Point 35 900m3 a day.

Jo Barnes, from Stellenbosch University’s community of health department, said she pitied the officials involved as they had not created the problem – but neither were they looking for alternatives.

“The engineers’ mantra is ‘the solution to pollution is dilution’. But do this for a century and it starts to accumulate. Overseas research has found contaminated sediments 3km from outfall pipes.

“The City needs to plan for the long term. What are they going to do with population growth and city densification?”

The City has said there was no other economically viable alternative other than discharging the sewage to the sea. The cost of pumping the sewage to the nearest treatment works at Athlone would be “enormous and cannot be justified”.

It said the environmental effects of the sewage to sea were “insignificant” or “minimal”.

Mayco member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg said yesterday: “Given budgetary constraints and needs elsewhere in the city, it is unlikely that we will accelerate towards upgrading these facilities.

“The City does, however, continually look into the feasibility of any new innovations and technologies.”

Marine pollution is in the news, and not only because the world’s attention was drawn to it on 8th June ‘World Oceans Day’, but because the City of Cape Town municipality is in the process of applying for a permit to continue spewing millions of liters of raw sewerage every day into the sea around Cape Town.

In applying for this permit the City of Cape Town is required to obtain public comment. The application is specific to the marine sewer outfalls at Hout Bay, Camps Bay and Green Point. The comment period began on the 1st June and ends on 10th July 2015.

Comment, input or recommendation can be submitted via:

Fax to 021 423 9540

E-mail to

Written submission can be posted to P.O Box 16548 Vlaeberg 8018

There is also an online comment form which can be used at

1 comment to Solutions demanded on sewage disposal


    It is possible to convert sewage into power using our Thermo Rec technology. We contacted the head of water and sanitation a number of years ago and last month again .The Minister has proclaimed that all waste water be used by separating it and recovering the water. We can convert the sewage into power. I proposed this earlier this month.

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