Wastewater Treatment Works at an estimated cost of R6 billion for marine outfalls

Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 15, 2024


Cape Town - The City's Water and Sanitation Directorate said they are on board in finding solutions in treating the effluent discharged from the marine outfalls at Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay with a potentially new Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) at a cost of R6 billion.

The City said in total, 95% of Cape Town's wastewater is discharged from WWTW, compared to 5% from the three outfalls.

Earlier this year, the City submitted its final report on their 60-day public participation to the Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment on the marine outfalls permit.

This followed just months after residents called for an alternative solution which they view as seeing raw untreated sewage being pumped into the environment causing air pollution and health risks, with close to 2 000 comments received.

The Weekend Argus previously reported that according to the final report, a total of 1 979 comments were received.

Zahid Badroodien, Water and Sanitation Mayco member, said the marine outfalls were built to safely release screened effluent far from the shore, “where the waste is diluted to very low levels by the vastness of the ocean, with naturally occurring biological methods helping to break down harmful bacteria”, he said.

“Historically, outfalls have been utilised mostly in urbanised areas where it is difficult to find suitable space for treatment plants on land.”

Photographer Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Badroodien said the City operates three marine outfalls, which are located offshore, discharging beyond the intertidal zone at Hout Bay, Green Point and Camps Bay.

“All other areas in Cape Town are serviced by 23 wastewater treatment works (WWTWs), which treat sewage by removing the nutrient loads before it is released as treated effluent into the natural environment.

“In total, 95% of Cape Town's wastewater is discharged from WWTW, compared to 5% from the three outfalls,” Badroodien said.

In 2023, the City initiated a study to explore future alternatives for treating effluent discharged from the three marine outfalls, including detailed cost assessments for each proposal, with an estimated investment of R140 million which is required for these upgrades.

Badroodien said R100m had already been budgeted for in the next financial year for mechanical and electrical upgrades, and structural enhancements.

“We have presented all possible future alternatives listed in this study, during the public participation period on the review process of the permits for our three marine outfalls.

“It is important for the public to remember that implementing these options will be subject to available budget and the results of feasibility and environmental impact assessments.

“The City will continue engaging with the public on this topic in future,” he said.

Peter Flentov of the Atlantic Seaboard, who has become a voice for the community, said internationally, Boston in the US had a similar problem, where untreated sewage flowed into the Boston Harbour.

“The City of Cape Town has avoided dealing effectively with issues related to the pumping of sewage into the ocean ever since the first Green Point outfall was commissioned over a hundred years ago,” he said.

“Every time in the past when the City was forced to act, it did too little too late.”

Michael Beaumont from ActionSA, who have been campaigning against the marine outfalls, said sewage spills have been coming on since the 1800s.

“While it is true that the City of Cape Town has disposed of its sewage through marine outfalls since 1895, the truth is that much has changed over 130 years.

“First, Cape Town is now a city of 5 million residents and the volume of sewage has now reached 30 million litres per day going out of the False Bay marine reserves

“People in 1895 did not have antidepressants and hormone-enhancing medications that produce a chemical contamination affecting marine life in the ways that it does today.

“ActionSA has fought this issue since it became clear that a growing community of civil society had been ignored by the City of Cape Town's public consultations processes when they raised serious contraventions of legislation,” said Beaumont.

Weekend Argus