Zandvlei partially re-opened

The pink area marks the areas of Zandvlei that remain closed. The main vlei has been opened to the public, but full immersion in the water is not safe, says the City.

For the first time since May, Zandvlei has been partially opened to the public.

However, it is still too risky to swim, and Marinda da Gama waterways remain closed because E coli counts are still too high, according to Marian Nieuwoudt, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment.

Kyran Wright, the manager of Zandvlei Nature Reserve, said he was pleased to inform residents that the City had re-opened the main vlei for “intermediate contact recreation”.

The City closed Zandvlei to the public on May 25 because it was badly polluted (”Zandvlei water quality results a shocker,“ September 16, False Bay Echo). At the time, a water sample in the vlei’s northern section showed an E coli reading of 8.3 million cfu/100ml. The City considers 4 001 colony-forming units (cfu) of E coli per 100ml an “unacceptable risk” to public health.

Consistently bad readings kept Zandvlei closed, and the public was warned to avoid all contact with the water.

Apart from the ecological impact of the pollution, recreational users had been unable to enjoy the natural environment, Ms Nieuwoudt said.

“The same applies to those residents who live in properties bordering on the vlei,” she said.

The E. coli count in the main vlei was now “within the allowable threshold levels for intermediate contact at various points within the Zandvlei”, but the City’s urban waterways were still prone to pollution from various sources and could still pose a risk to the health of recreational users, Ms Nieuwoudt said, adding that swimming and other activities where the full body was immersed should be avoided.

The City says sampling results are snapshots only of the E. coli counts at a particular time and place.

According to Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, the vlei was impacted by several big pollution incidents, including the failure of the Clifton Road pump station in May and the Keyser River pump station in July.

“In both cases, the infrastructure had been severely damaged by solid objects in the line. In August, officials discovered an overflowing manhole next to the Keyser River. The manhole’s cover and frame had both been stolen,” she said.

Repairs had been done quickly, she said, but failures would continue as long as the misuse of the sewers remained rife.

The City’s water and sanitation department was seeking ways to stop everything from rags to rubble entering the pump stations.

The new Retreat low lift pump station and refurbishment of the Retreat high lift pump station would help, she said.

“We encourage residents to stop dumping objects in the sewer lines and report those who do. The vandalism of pump stations and other sewer infrastructure poses a serious risk to all residents and our natural environment.“

Ms Nieuwoudt said the City would continue monitoring the water quality at Zandvlei and keep the public informed.

Charles Whaley is a Marina da Gama resident and spokesman for petitioners who are calling for Zandvlei to be saved. While they welcomed the partial reopening of Zandvlei, they were worried that there were still high levels of E coli in the channels around Marina Da Gama, he said.

“The fact that we are seeing only a partial opening indicates that the crisis is ongoing.

“Our response is a series of questions: Does this indicate that sewage leaks are still entering the Marina area from unidentified sources? Or is it that the ebb and flow of the estuary area has failed to flush these areas? What is the short-term and long-term plan to stop the continuing flow of sewage and other nutrients into Zandvlei?”

The group also asked what the plan is to halt the algae bloom that, day by day, they say is growing exponentially, threatening aquatic life and the health of local residents and those who use the vlei for recreation.

“The City needs to get a grip on the water crisis throughout the peninsula – our lives and livelihoods depend on it,” Mr Whaley said.