The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is aware of the recent media reports on, and the intent of Action SA to, appeal the Coastal Waters Discharge Permits (CWDPs) that were issued for the Hout Bay, Camps Bay and the Green Point Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTWs) in Cape Town.
The Department would like to make it clear that it is a common practice in coastal cities around the world to discharge wastewater into the marine environment. In South Africa, this activity is legislated under the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Amended Act, 2008 and the Coastal Waters Discharge Permit Regulations, 2019, which states that any person discharging effluent originating from land into coastal waters must obtain a CWDP from the Department.
When the City of Cape Town submitted its applications, as part of the permitting requirements, the City was required to conduct a marine impact assessment study to assess the impact of the effluent on the receiving environment. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was appointed by the City of Cape Town to do carry out this assessment. It is important to note that the effluent discharged is not ‘raw sewage’ but preliminary treated sewage.
The findings of the above-mentioned study indicated that there is no immediate ecological disaster or major risks to human health forthcoming as a result of the effluent discharged through the Cape Town outfalls. The Department also considered alternative options during the decision-making process. However, no other feasible options are available currently. The City cannot cease the operations of the WWTWs as the municipality has a Constitutional responsibility to deliver water and sanitation services to its citizens. In granting the permits, the Department made it conditional that the City must investigate ways to improve the quality of the effluent.
The Department is also aware that there were sewage spills, resulting from pump-station failures in some areas in the City of Cape Town during the festive period. It is important to note that the above-mentioned spills were not linked in any way to the three permitted marine outfalls.
The Department is of the view that all the legislative processes were followed during the decision-making process. Furthermore, the Department made it conditional in the permit that the permit- holder must monitor the effluent before it is discharged into the coastal waters and that the permit-holder must conduct monitoring in the receiving environment annually to assess the potential impact of the discharges on the receiving environment. In addition, the permit-holder must submit monitoring results to the Department on a quarterly basis and the Department’s Compliance office will conduct compliance audits to assess compliance with the conditions of the permit. There is ongoing monitoring that is required to investigate ways of improving the quality of effluent on a long-term basis and the conditions set in the permits are aimed at addressing the risks that are associated with the marine outfalls.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic Of South Africa: Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.