Study shows how to save waterways

Videos posted on a Hout Bay Facebook group of a Cape clawless otter at the Disa River estuary prompted questions about the quality of the water. A study by a firm of consulting engineers, which was presented at Hout Bay library, identified some of the main sources of the pollutants found in Hout Bay waterways.

Night buckets, detergents, oils and overflowing sewer manholes are among the pollution threats to Hout Bay’s waterways, and the main sources of pollution are found in Imizamo Yethu with a population of 30 000.

This according to a study by Lukhozi Consulting Engineers, which was presented at the Hout Bay library on Monday June 26.

The City commissioned the study two years ago at the request of the Hout Bay Rivers Catchment Forum, a community group constituted by the City. The Sentinel was not invited, but Abdulla Parker, from the City’s catchment stormwater and river management department, sent the 56-page power point presentation to us.

The study identifies pollution sources and possible steps to eliminate them.

Jackie Whales, the chairwoman of the Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay, a non-profit conservation group, wasn’t at the presentation, but said they hoped the City would now give them a timeline for pollution countermeasures.

“The Friends feel strongly that implementation needs to be undertaken as a matter of urgency. The pollution into the river is ongoing and implementing the proposals will hopefully stop it. Not polluting the river, estuary and sea is important,” she said.

Ms Whales said some members of the volunteer group had been working with the City for more than 20 years to tackle the pollution problem.

The Hout Bay River started on Table Mountain and its catchment fell entirely within one suburb, which made it very special, and it was also one of the last uncanalised rivers in Cape Town, she said.

But while the river started off pristine, it became progressively polluted as it flowed through the built-up areas of Hout Bay, said Ms Whales.

There were days the pollution was so bad that one could smell the river from Fisherman’s World Shopping Centre about 200m away and the water had methane bubbles, she said.

“Of course there are other days where the water quality is much better, but it’s never swimmable in the lower reaches.”

Mr Parker told Sentinel News that it had taken six years to begin the study what with a public participation process, budget restrictions, a tender process and a pandemic.

The report was “phase one” and it highlighted concerns and challenges to provide quick, medium and long-term solutions to pollution.

Lukhozi did not respond to questions, but its study concludes that ultimately the solution to the pollution problem is the provision of formal housing and services to all Hout Bay residents.

Lukhozi’s presentation said it had been involved in a number of field investigations within the Hout Bay River catchment, primarily in Imizamo Yethu, and those had found that contaminated domestic waste water from multiple sources was flowing from the streets into the underground stormwater networks and then into the Disa River. And waste-choked sewers were causing raw sewage to spill into the stormwater drains.

Some short-term solutions, according to Lukhozi, include using lockable manhole covers, various litter screens and sediment traps, and diversion structures to stop the stormwater system becoming choked by waste and inundated by contaminated domestic wastewater.

John Coetzee, a retired civil engineer and committee member of the Hout Bay River Catchment Forum, who heads a sub-committee on environmental pollution, said several concerns had been raised at the presentation that he hoped to discuss with the committee to find the way forward with the City.

The Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay’s projects on the Hout Bay River corridor, include the Butterfly Garden at Princess Bridge, the wetland rehabilitation at the Longkloof weir, the Baviaanskloof River and, most recently, the Kadot River, which drains from Northshore.

The Friends also employs four men twice a week to collect litter that could end up in the sea, and since that project started in November 2021, they have collected over six tons of litter, according to Ms Whales.

Mr Parker said the tender process for the study ended on Friday June 30. The next step was for interested and affected parties to comment on the study and those concerns would be addressed in phase two, he said.

Contact or visit www.friendsoftheriversofhoutbay

Since November 2021, four men employed by the Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay have collected over six tons of litter.
The Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay has numerous projects on the Hout Bay River corridor including this Butterfly Garden at Princess Bridge.
A section of the Disa River above Victoria Road.