/Dog days/

Named after the period in the North American summer when the Dog Star (Sirius – which is derived from the Greek word for “lit” because it’s the brightest star in the sky) is visible in the sky – usually the hottest, most uncomfortable days.  

We’re in the hottest days of our summer and the City of Cape Town is struggling to keep its beaches open. Experts told News24 that this is a sign “the chickens are coming home to roost” for sewage pollution and other hallmarks of unsustainable development.

These experts say that the Mother City’s sewerage system is in dire need of an overhaul. However, the City of Cape Town’s Eddie Andrews, the City’s Deputy Mayor and Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment dismissed these claims.

December beach outlook mentioned in our original story

“The infrastructure relating to these sewer spillages did not fail as a result of maintenance issues,” he says. “There were various reasons for the overflows that affected a few of our beaches recently, including loadshedding and foreign objects being dumped in the sewer network and causing blockages.”

Temporary closures were implemented at Muizenberg, Bakoven, Strand, and Fish Hoek beaches, as well as Small Bay.

Andrews was ready with reasons for the closures:

  • Bakoven was related to the knock-on effects of load-shedding.
  • Strand beach was due to an electrical fault at a pump station.
  • Fish Hoek was a result of sewer pipes that were blocked with foreign objects that should not be there such as plastics and materials.
  • Small Bay was due a damaged sewer pipe.
  • Gordon’s Bay was a tripped sewer pump station because inappropriate materials had been thrown into the local sewer network again and blocked the inlet pipe to the pumps.
  • Llandudno Beach was an overflow from a sewer pump station after an ultrasonic level sensor became faulty due to a power surge caused by loadshedding.

“The City is investing in our infrastructure through longer term major capital projects such as bulk sewer and Wastewater Treatment Works upgrades, while implementing our annual pipe replacement programme and repairing and upgrading sewer pump stations identified in the Pump Station Security Upgrade Programme, as well as raising public awareness about the impact of illegal dumping on our sewer network through our Bin It, Don’t Block It drive,” explains Andrews.

He added that even with all the investment, residents also have a part to play to help look after the infrastructure.

How to be a conscientious flusher:

Think about what you are flushing down your toilets, pouring down sinks, and dumping illegally. Illegally dumped waste can get into drains and waterways and cause blockages and overflows. 

The city manages a sewer network of over 10,000km of pipes of various diameters, pump stations and water treatment works. Sewer pump stations and wastewater works need electricity to operate. The majority of the sewer system works on gravity, but in cases where the sewage must flow uphill, pump stations maintain the flow to the wastewater works plants.

There are permanent generators fitted at all wastewater treatment plants and the larger pump stations, with maintenance staff on standby to use contingency measures such as mobile pumps and sewer suction tankers to reduce overflows.

“However, with higher, prolonged stages of load-shedding being experienced, sewer spills and overflows are to be expected, despite the contingency measures that are in place. In such instances, operational teams do their utmost to eliminate, reduce, contain and clean up such flows,” said Andrews.

All pump stations are fitted with telemetry to help monitor the sump levels of the facilities.

Capetonians wanting to take advantage of the tourist (and Gautenger) free dog days must monitor the news to know which beaches are safe to swim at.

Featured image: Sebastian Canaves/Unsplash