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Zandvlei waterbody closed after sewage leaks has Muizenberg surfers falling sick

SouthAfrica - Cape Town - 31 January 2021 - Surfers in Muizenberg defy the law by taking a stand against the Lockdown level 3 regulations that prohibit people to practice water activities from beaches. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

SouthAfrica - Cape Town - 31 January 2021 - Surfers in Muizenberg defy the law by taking a stand against the Lockdown level 3 regulations that prohibit people to practice water activities from beaches. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 28, 2021

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Cape Town - The aquatic sections of the Zandvlei Nature Reserve remain closed until further notice following sewage leaks that left several surfers sick.

The City said the closure of the waterbody was a precautionary measure following water quality concerns and applied to all aquatic sections of the vlei.

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This amid calls by residents of Marina da Gama and surrounding areas who have started a petition demanding that mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg address affected communities regarding the state of the reserve.

Learn to Surf owner Anthony Scholte said many surfers reported being sick with stomach pains that lasted for days, vomiting and diarrhoea caused by the sewage spills.

“It seems that Sunday and Monday were the worst days - when most got sick.

“I warned my Facebook Surf Report group’s members because I saw the sewage spill when I was walking my dog.

“It flowed into the vlei for nearly three days before they opened the river mouth and let it all flush out into the sea right into one of the country’s most popular recreational beaches.

“The vast majority of the surfers had no idea of the spill and as far as I know there was zero warning,” he said.

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Environmental activist Charles Whaley said for the last few years the council have openly accepted that sewage leaks present a serious problem.

He said there was no effective barrier or defence protecting Zandvlei from pollution spills from the local industrial estates and the out of control illegal tipping/dumping of every type of waste.

“The authorities did tests on 17 May but the tests were ’compromised’ and had to be done again.

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Limberg said Zandvlei was fed by a network of rivers and canals which were polluted before they reached it.

“It is not environmentally possible to seal off the vlei from this tributary system completely, but the City has put in barriers ... to help contain the sewage.”

Limberg said the barriers were helpful in shortening the duration of vlei closures, but were not able to prevent low level chronic pollution from entering the vlei on a consistent basis.

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