Green Scorpions issue directive against City of Cape Town over pollution

Welcome step in the fight to rid Milnerton Lagoon and Diep River of pollution and restore the estuary

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27/10/2020 11:01:17

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Green Scorpions issue directive against City of Cape Town over pollution

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) commends the Western Cape Government Directorate: Environmental Law Enforcement, or Green Scorpions, on finally issuing the City of Cape Town with an Official Directive in terms of Section 28(4) of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Diep River and Milnerton Lagoon system is a natural heritage on the Cape Town community’s doorstep that is rapidly being lost to uncontrolled sewage pollution.   After many years of inaction from the authorities, residents and ratepayers’ associations have implemented their own sampling, paid for by voluntary civil contributions under the guidance and support of OUTA.   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Since the beginning of 2020, OUTA has been actively taking water samples at strategic sampling points along the Diep River Estuary to determine the source of the pollution.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                “These results are being accumulated for purposes of scientific analyses and other possible action steps.  Although the data accumulated are adjusted as  new tests are conducted, there are already very clear and serious trends that should be noted and acted on immediately in order to stem the destruction,” says Andrea Korff, Senior Legal Project Manager at OUTA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Green Scorpions issued a pre-directive in March this year to the city to act on the ongoing pollution of the Diep River and Milnerton Lagoon. The pollution is caused by partially or untreated sewage emanating from the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works and other stormwater canals flowing into the Diep River Catchment area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Green Scorpions’ investigation into this matter found that the Diep River continues to hold significantly polluted water.  It found that the water within the Diep River is filled with stagnating raw sewage along various sections of the river and that these particular sections have extremely high E.Coli and Faecal Coliforms count.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The March pre-directive directed the city to:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                (a) Commence with a thorough clean-up operation of the waste/pollutants from the stormwater canals, adjacent to the Theo Marais Sports Complex and the Potsdam WWTW towards the mouth of the Milnerton Lagoon area.   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                (b) Amend and submit to the Department the city’s action plan for approval.   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                (c) Erect adequate signage along the Diep River Catchment area.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                (d) Submit update reports on the implementation of the city’s action plan to the Department. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                (e) Conduct meetings or engagements with affected groups to communicate and inform the communities of the city’s actions, in accordance with their action plan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                “It is our view that the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality has a duty towards its communities to resolve this situation as a matter of urgency.  Failure to act in resolving the pollution of the Diep River and Milnerton Lagoon, will amount to a dereliction of duty by the city of Cape Town,” says Korff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                In a letter addressed to the Green Scorpions on 24 August 2020, OUTA stated that the city’s current interventions are only addressing failing systems and infrastructure that should in any event be working effectively.  OUTA would like to see what action the city will be taking to actively remedy the state of the lagoon, which at this stage is still filled with stagnant, polluted effluent. “It should be a functioning estuary supporting marine and estuarine life,” Korff emphasised. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OUTA received confirmation that the Green Scorpions issued the City of Cape Town with an official Directive on 21 September 2020. “Unfortunately, we have not received a copy of the document,  seeing that the city intends on appealing the terms and timelines of the directive,” says Korff. She added that OUTA commends the Green Scorpions for acting. “Despite the city appealing the Directive, we firmly believe that this is a step in the right direction in holding the city accountable for their blatant disregard for the environment.” 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OUTA will continue to monitor the water quality being discharged within the Diep River Estuary and will continue to apply pressure on authorities to hold the city accountable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                A soundclip with comment by Andrea Korff, OUTA Senior Legal Project Manager, is here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Picture: Johnnie Miller

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.