Concerns about sewage spillage in Hout Bay

The City of Cape Town clearing out the stormwater drains in Hout Bay, clogged with building rubble, plastics, sanitary products and nappies.

From soiled nappies to animal carcases, Hout Bay’s sewerage system is taking a beating, which could deliver a knockout blow to the eco system.

The Hout Bay Gateway Circle opposite Hout Bay police station has been flooded with sewage water running down from the Imizamo Yethu settlement, which then runs into the Disa River, into the lagoon and eventually lands up in the ocean.

According to the City of Cape Town, the sewage water is both as a result of “night soil and grey water” from washing being deposited through a network of illegal sewer connections in the informal settlement of IY.

This very sewage runs towards the low lying flat areas before making it’s way into the river.

Drains are overflowing, with the sewage water heading towards the circle.

Chairman of the Hout Bay Rivers Catchment Forum, Janssen Davies, welcomed the City’s acknowledgement that there was “major pollution” flowing into the river’s out in Hout Bay.

“The E.coli count in the Hout Bay River between Victoria Road Bridge and the estuary is very high and significantly exceeds the threshold for acceptable risk,” Mr Davies said.

He also highlighted that a comprehensive study was conducted to identify the sources of pollution entering the river and determine proper measures to avoid further pollution in future, which was approved by the City in October 2020.

“The Hout Bay Rivers Catchment Forum supports the efforts of the City to take every step possible to remedy this serious threat to public health created by the ongoing pollution,” Mr Davies said.

“We hope that situation will improve as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the City’s Water and Sanitation Department started tackling the flooding at the circle, while also clearing the sewerage system.

The City hired new contractors to clean out the stormwater drains.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas, who has been working closely with the department, said the contribution of building rubble, plastics, sanitary products and even animal carcases had placed further strain on the sewerage system.

He confirmed that although there were retention ponds catching the stormwater and the City workers addressing the spillage, a “behavioural change” was needed.

“It’s got a lot to do with behaviour as well. If you illegally dumping something in the sewage system, from so many different illegal connections, it has to clog the system and spill out somewhere,” Mr Quintas said.

Desiree Manuel from Hout Bay feared the worse, saying that ongoing spillage could result in a serious health hazard for Hout Bay, and not only the rivers.

“If the sewage is already spilling out onto the circle, where else can this pop up? And surely, that cannot be healthy for anybody living in that conditions,” she said.

“You often see lots of kids, especially the children from IY, walking around this and it just cannot be healthy at all, especially during this time when we are fighting a deadly virus.”

The City will be rolling out a campaign to cut illegal connections to the sewerage system and issuing hefty fines to those tampering illegally with City infrastructure.

Mr Quintas said the City would also be looking to build more ponds to contain and clear the sewage at source. Other ideas also include a sewage drop-off site, where residents will be able to dump their waste directly into the sewer system and not into the storm water drainage network, which leads to the river and beaches.

Mr Quintas confirmed that a study into a sewerage drop-off site was already under way.

“Furthermore, the City is partnering with local businesses to install and manage litter socks for solid waste catchment at the storm drains which run into the river,” Mr Quintas said.