OUTA to hold Mother City accountable for pollution
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) wrote to the City of Cape Town to request a meeting to find workable solutions to fix the sewage pollution crisis within the Diep River and Milnerton Lagoon.
According to Andrea Korff, Legal Project Manager at OUTA, the City is responsible for the sewage pollution and needs to fix it. “We tasked independent consultants to take water samples as part of our ongoing investigation and according to our sample reports dated 23/01/2020 and 03/02/2020, water pollution sources point to the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) and an identified structure believed to be a sewage lift station, these results identifies the City as one of the main culprits of sewage contamination in the Milnerton Lagoon catchment.”
OUTA’s results pointed out that the root cause of the pollution is due to the lack of adequate sanitation infrastructure in Joe Slovo (and other surrounding informal settlements) and the collapse of the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works.
“The Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works sample was a diluted sample taken just downstream from the discharge point and the E.Coli levels in the results are far above the legal requirements, this puts the City in a position of noncompliance. Hazardous waste such as sewage is dangerous and if not handled correctly can pose severe risks to human health and the environment which is deemed a criminal offense,” added Korff.
The management of the wastewater, as well as the prevention of hazardous waste from contaminating water resources, is thus the responsibility of the City.
According to the Water Act, the disposal of hazardous waste, whether intentionally or in a grossly negligent manner, into a watercourse, is a criminal offence, and thus the failure to prevent the further discharge of the hazardous waste, from the WWTW into the Diep river and Milnerton Lagoon, will be a statutory crime.
What is concerning to OUTA and other affected stakeholders, are that although alleged plans are in place to upgrade the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works, no interim plan to deal with polluted water flowing into the Diep River for the next 3 to 5 years, are on the cards.
To date no concrete solutions have been tabled by the City and it seems (as is apparent from the water test results above) that the problem has now become an environmental and health issue, which is not receiving the urgent attention it deserves.
Residents have been pleading with the City of Cape Town to address the increase of pollution in the Milnerton lagoon and surrounding areas, after doing extensive research. Their appeals for urgent assistance have allegedly been ignored by the City, despite all their findings.
Having exhausted all normal channels, after painstakingly trying to engage with the City for years and despairing of any real change, residents’ associations reached out to OUTA and appealed for help in finding a solution to the problem by applying pressure on the City to fix the environmental issue.
Milnerton lagoon, which is part of the Diep River estuary, forms part of the City of Cape Town-run Table Bay Nature Reserve.