Cape Town’s Zandvlei Estuary, which was closed for four months due to sewage in the water, is again open for boating but not for swimming.
But the canals of Marina da Gama which are part of Zandvlei will remain closed, according to a statement from the city of Cape Town.
The city said that while Zandvlei’s water quality is still “at risk”, the number of E. coli in the water improved sufficiently for “intermediate contact”. It excludes swimming and diving.
“The city’s urban waterways are generally prone to compromised water quality from a variety of sources,” the city said. Any contact with water, such as swimming, should be avoided.
A report released earlier this year, before the vleis closed, showed that the water quality of Cape Town’s vleis, estuaries and rivers has declined over the past 40 years.
Zandvlei is the first of Cape Town’s three vleis to reopen after major sewage spills. Zeekoevlei and Rietvlei remain closed to the public. May-August water quality results released by the City showed unsafe levels of E. coli in all three vleis.
The closure of the vleis has forced sports clubs around Cape Town to suspend activities like canoeing, rowing and sailing.
While the partial reopening of Zandvlei is welcomed, it is still “not ideal” for these activities, according to Robert Hart, co-chair of the Western Cape Canoe Union (WCCU) and former president of the Peninsula Canoe Club. Hart welcomed the partial opening of Zandvlei, but said a “much more transparent” approach was needed from the city.
“The City needs to recognize that it is not actually serving the public interest by removing these blanket bans,” Hart said.
He also questioned the water quality data published by the City. Zandvlei showed significantly elevated levels of E. coli to 8.3 million colony forming units (CFU) per 100 ml a few days before the vlei closed in May, according to data released by the city.
“I do not dispute that there are sewage spills, and we know that sewage spills are getting worse and occurring more frequently. But the impact it has on water quality is a long way from city readings, ”Hart said.
Reasons for the sewage spills in recent months, according to the city, included the failure of the Clifton Road pumping station in May and the Keyser River pumping station in July. In August, city officials discovered an overflowing manhole next to the Keyser River.