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Load shedding: Residents demand the City of Cape Town's intervention to avoid lagoon pollution

Sludge and sediment at surface level in the Milnerton Lagoon was seen on Thursday. Picture: Supplied

Sludge and sediment at surface level in the Milnerton Lagoon was seen on Thursday. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 4, 2022

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Cape Town - Residents living around the Milnerton Lagoon have dismissed the City’s attribution of the recent pollution in the lagoon to load shedding as an “old excuse” and questioned why wastewater treatment works (WWTW) were not on the essential power grid.

On Thursday, numerous reports and pictures of pollution in the lagoon were circulated, just a week after the Green Scorpions inspected the Diep River and the lagoon following pollution reports in the past months.

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The residents argued that before load shedding, pollution of the lagoon had been an issue and they have now demanded that the City take proactive interventions to avoid the failure of pump stations.

Resident Philippe Roche said if load shedding was a known problem that had a dire impact on critical infrastructure, why had the City failed to take steps to insulate such infrastructure from load shedding and procure generators to ensure proper functioning.

“Load shedding is here to stay, and will get worse like the rest of Africa. Why are these vital infrastructures not equipped with solar panels and batteries or, why do they not have generators? This has been used as an excuse too many times now,” he said.

Another resident Adele Pote said critical infrastructures should be zoned to not experience load shedding.

“Why can the government not work together? We are in this position due to the appointed officials in the City and province failing to institute official intergovernmental disputes for failures by organs of state.

“The City of Cape Town is responsible for addressing at the provincial level if the relevant department is not delivering,” she said.

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Sludge and sediment at surface level in the Milnerton Lagoon was seen on Thursday.

#ReThinkTheStink Director Peter Walsh said there are many many reasons for the environmental disaster in the Diep River Estuary and the City was often quick to utilise these types of excuses when under pressure from residents.

“The CoCT is not compliant with the current directive in many instances and the Western Cape Law Enforcement is not taking appropriate action as required under NEMA (National Environmental Management Act).

“This is where #ReThinkTheStink is now focusing its attention. Whilst doing all that we can to ensure we work with the City to mitigate this environmental disaster. And it is my view that councillor Zahid Badroodien is working hard to reverse the issues his team face. It will take a decade or more to reverse the mess,” he said.

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Walsh said the solutions and the accountability for the “mess” and its resolution lay with the City.

“What I am not seeing from CoCT is accountability. Ultimately, no matter where the pollution emanates from, it is the CoCT’s responsibility to manage it. I challenge the Councillors and or officials to highlight a single meaningful instance of pollution that does not fall under their ambit of control or responsibility.

“As required by law, their focus needs to be on collaboration between the various departments they control and getting the waterways and the pollution thereof declared disaster areas so that everybody can start behaving appropriately,” he said.

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Water and Sanitation Mayco member Zahid Badroodien said the department’s teams were making every effort to help reduce the impact of load shedding on the infrastructure so that water and sanitation services can continue to communities as optimally as possible during load shedding.

Badroodien said pump stations had been severely impacted by load shedding and that several overflows had been reported.

“Where pump stations have generator capacity, these are functioning. However, where there is no generator capacity, operational teams are ready to respond as quickly as possible,” he said.

In the Erica Road water outlet, Badroodien said the necessary measures would be implemented to ensure that pumping takes place between 8am and 5pm, while he said there were no reports of unauthorised discharges from Potsdam WWTW.

He said permanent generators had been fitted at all WWTW and 85 larger priority water and sewer pump stations.

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