First On EWN: Cape Town’s sewage debacle not flushing away

An EWN probe has revealed Environmental Affairs is clueless on how much sewage is being pumped into the sea.

A plume off the Hout Bay coast which marine conservation photographer Jean Tresfon claims eminates from the local sewage outfall pipe. Picture: Jean Tresfon

CAPE TOWN - An Eyewitness News investigation has revealed the Department of Environmental Affairs does not know how much waste is being pumped into South Africa's oceans.

The most recent estimate dates back to 2008, when some 786 million litres of polluted water was being discharged into the sea daily.

About 120 coastal sewer pipes are operating legally nationwide.

But the volume of sewage being discharged through these outlets is unknown.

The Environmental Affairs Department, which has recently taken responsibility for marine outfall pipes, said it's trying to establish the most recent figures.

Three pipes in Cape Town, disposing of untreated sewage offshore, recently made headlines when environmentalists raised concerns over the long term effects.

Researcher Glen Ashton said, "So is it sustainable to put large amounts of human waste and nutrient into the marine environment. Around the city we're hearing significant impacts of water users, kayakers, surfers; these are all things that we need to look at again now."

The City of Cape Town is in the process of applying for permits to keep on using the current system.

While it said the environmental effects are too minor to justify the expense of using other options, the City has admitted it has not explored alternative technologies.