Cape Town – The City of Cape Town recently passed a motion of exigency to establish a Diep River Catchment forum with residents, activists and all City directorates.
This to increase transparency around all challenges in the catchment, including the Milnerton Lagoon, which had visibly worsening lagoon water quality and a foul smell permeating through the area.
This comes after investigations by civil organisations RethinkTheStink and Milnerton Central Residents Association (MCRA) that traced the source of the low water quality and stench permeating through the lagoon to the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW).
Caroline Marx of RethinkTheStink and the MCRA environmental head said that despite claims by officials that there were no spills, independent water samples taken in the presence of City staff on November 4 demonstrated E coli levels of 750 000 E coli/100ml in the effluent discharged from Potsdam WWTW into the Diep River, exceeding the licence requirement of 1 000cfu/100ml at an estimated rate of over 36 million litres a day.
However, Water and Sanitation Mayco member Siseko Mbandezi explained that a water sample reflected a particular moment in time and could not be extrapolated to draw broader conclusions. He added that the City would convene a community meeting on November 30 to update the public on the current interventions and conditions of the lagoon.
Alex Lansdowne, chairperson of the City’s mayoral advisory committee on water quality, serves in sub-council 3, which includes the Milnerton and Table View areas. He said they passed an emergency motion to establish the Diep River Catchment forum on Thursday to address issues like this.
Lansdowne said the establishment of this catchment forum would be transparent and City officials, of all directorates, and external stakeholders would come together on a regular basis to discuss issues affecting the lagoon and the entire catchment area, which runs from the Kasteelberg Mountains, through Malmesbury, before discharging into Table Bay.
Lansdowne said: “I can understand why Milnerton residents have little faith in the City at this point; they have to live in the odour of an anoxic lagoon – the result of about 30 to 50 years of sedimentation. However, it is now our responsibility as the City to tell residents what the pathway out of the stink is.”
Marx said the establishment of the Diep River Catchment forum was encouraging and would assist in addressing the river system as a whole, but it would not help much if City management was not able to ensure WWTWs comply with legal safety standards.