9 June, 2015 9 June, 2015

Cape Town Poo-Poo Problem Open To Public Participation

55 Million litres of untreated sewage per day; that’s how much is being pumped into the waters just offshore from Cape Town’s Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay on average. That is enough to fill 22 Olympic-sized swimming pools each and every day, with urine and faeces.


While on one of his regular marine patrol flights on 28 April, environmental photographer Jean Tresfon captured the image above showing a plume of what he suspected to be sewage. The photo made headlines locally and caused quite a stir. Part of the response from the City of Cape Town as discussed on CapeTalk 567 Radio was as follows:

“Our officials had a look at the picture and their assumption is that one cannot confirm what exactly the plume or the source thereof is. It could be many things and the City’s experts will have to do a comprehensive analysis.”

“Save to say, if it is indeed sewage spewing out then there should be a constant daily plume (its direction will be dependent on the wind/wave action). Secondly, the sewage is discharged through several diffusers at a depth of 30 metres i.e. it should be dispersed before it reaches the top level of the ocean. Lastly, no seagulls are noticeable in the photo and their presence would have been an indication of sewage discharge. In addition, one would be able to see the seagulls gathering around the sewage plume from the shoreline.”

Well, that’s probably because the photo was taken from over 1500 feet in the air. Zoom in a little closer and what did Jean see?

See those white specks? Yes, seagulls.

The City’s first response was to suggest that the plume wasn’t in fact sewage, but GPS co-ordinates recorded by Jean indicate that the plume was in fact exactly where the Green Point outfall pipeline ends. Details of which can be found on The City’s website.

On 21 May, Jean then photographed a similar plume at the location of the Hout Bay marine outfall, further proof that the discharge was indeed sewage.

In the meantime, the City of Cape Town realised that they have been pumping untreated sewage into the ocean without the proper permits outlined in the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Integrated Coastal Management Act (ICMA), 2008 (Act 24 of 2009), which came into effect on 1 December 2009.

They have subsequently applied for the permit, which includes a public participation phase that runs from 1 June to 10 July 2015. That means we’ve got the opportunity to submit comments, recommendations or input to the municipality on how the sewage can be dealt with.

On Jean’s Facebook post, John Wilson had a suggestion:

“If our beautiful City wants to gain a huge feather in its cap then why not convert the Cape Town Stadium into the highest tech sewerage treatment works and keep our ocean clean!”

Sea Point, with the brand new sewage works on the right of the frame (we kid!)

Of course, you can make your own suggestions here on the City’s website before 10 July.

In their permit application, the City of Cape Town suggested that there is no economically viable alternative to pumping the sewage directly into the ocean.

“I am not a sewage engineer and don’t have all the answers,” said Jean Tresfon about the issue. “However, I feel that to just continue as we are is completely unacceptable. Quite aside from the environmental implications of 55 million litres per day of effluent being pumped into our oceans, it is really not on to have the stuff bubbling to the surface and blowing back onto our beaches and coastline. Surfers, divers, kayakers and swimmers have been getting really sick, that’s a fact. Huge exponential increases in the population of Cape Town mean that the increased volumes of untreated effluent pumped into the sea are becoming unsustainable and are no longer environmentally acceptable.”

“I am just one photographer reporting what I see,” continued Jean, “but Cape Town has a huge community of watermen that could really be heard. The comment period is only open for another month and this is our one chance to make a difference. Oh, and just by the way; several of the outfalls are deep within the so called Table Mountain Marine Protected Area. Some protection, huh?”

The sewage plume visible from the Hout Bay marine outfall on 21 May 2015.

If you have any suggestions for the City to consider or would like your opinion to be heard, then follow one of the avenues listed below:

Comment, input or recommendation can be submitted via:
• fax to 021 423 9540
• e-mail to Kevin.Samson@capetown.gov.za
• written submission posted to P.O Box 16548 Vlaeberg 8018
online comment form

People who are unable to read or write and who have disabilities, as well as disadvantaged groups who are unable to submit written comments are encouraged to contact Anele Viti on 021 400 1652 or e-mail anele.viti@capetown.gov.za for special assistance.

For further information on general public participation, contact Nathan Fisher on 021 400 1450 or e-mail Nathan.fisher@capetown.gov.za.

For more information on the Application for a Coastal Waters Discharge Permit, contact Nomaxabiso Tsawe on 021 487 2597 or e-mail Nomaxabiso.Tsawe@capetown.gov.za.

The Application for a Coastal Waters Discharge Permit for Hout Bay, Camps Bay and Green Point sea outfalls is available for viewing at the offices of Subcouncil 16, Subcouncil 19 and Subcouncil 20.


Sewage washing ashore at Camps Bay (above) and Hout Bay (below).



  1. Tertius Lindenberg
    9 June, 2015 at 9:06 am · Reply

    “No economically viable alternative to pumping the sewage directly into the ocean” = No economical viability to sustain living creatures and no brains to think what will happen if this problem increases in future into a much more serious state.

  2. Ponch
    9 June, 2015 at 9:36 am · Reply

    after all this time being atop of the food chain we still come up with shit ideas.

  3. Basil
    9 June, 2015 at 10:46 am · Reply

    In other news pics of the Umgeni river mouth show untold horrors being washed out to sea on a daily basis. Luckily we are used to surfing in shit/rubbish/dead chickens in DBN

  4. Brett Jefferson Stott
    9 June, 2015 at 10:57 am · Reply

    Great article, well written – great facts! Will write to local CPT government!!

  5. Richard Palmer
    9 June, 2015 at 12:47 pm · Reply

    We have the know how and technology to solve this problem, today.
    Here’s one example. There a re thousands more.


  6. Eddie Bisset
    9 June, 2015 at 6:24 pm · Reply

    Nice one Jean.
    I’m one of the kayakers who got sick after doing an Eskimo Roll in 3 Anchor Bay after an afternoon paddle.
    The water was discolored, smelt acrid, and even though my mouth was firmly closed the water was driven up my sinuses and into the gut.
    2 hours later I had the trots, headaches and an overall sore body that lasted about 2 days.
    Eddie Bisset.

  7. Hugo Viljoen
    9 June, 2015 at 8:30 pm · Reply

    meanwhile , bill gates invests in a machine that takes sewage sludge, produces 250kw of power a day and completely purifies the water, he even drank it, while we swim in poop and fumble for candles, but ja it cost 3 million dollars and 6months production time , i got a quote from them, sanitation not gonna buy it

  8. Hugo Viljoen
    9 June, 2015 at 8:31 pm · Reply

    oh by the way if u drank some garlic juice u wouldnt have gotten sick ;p

  9. Seachercam2001
    9 June, 2015 at 9:44 pm · Reply

    melkbosstrand always smells like sewage

    • The Rich
      10 June, 2015 at 2:55 pm · Reply

      Haha what absolute rubbish. I’ve lived all over Melkbos for the last 10 years and the only time I’ve ever smelt sewerage is when I’ve walked near to the manhole covers over the sewer pipes in 11th avenue.

      • Seachercam2001
        11 June, 2015 at 4:05 pm · Reply

        well u been living there for so long maybe u dont smell it anymore..i bet u dont even smell how it stinks when they put the porta toilets on the beach in december

  10. Jonesy
    10 June, 2015 at 8:19 am · Reply

    Like Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins sang-” The world is a Vampire”.
    We are really seeing our own arse.

  11. Jamii Hamlin
    10 June, 2015 at 8:40 am · Reply

    I never realised how similar the Cape Town Stadium looks like a giant potty! Perhaps after all the stink that has come from the #FIFAgate corruption and bribery allegation that the honourable thing is for FIFA to do is #PayBackTheMoney and we could do a mass roll out of high tech sewage farms that could convert the poo in to energy and help Eskom a little!

  12. Arno Theron
    10 June, 2015 at 11:35 am · Reply

    Maybe we should go and have a look at what our neighbours in Windhoek and a little bit further in Singapore have been doing….Recycling of sewage to drinking water quality is totally possible and feasible…the city does have a water problem, so solve that and yes we can put in some digesters and help Escom…….double whammy.

  13. Cape Republic
    11 June, 2015 at 11:47 am · Reply

    If we voted to make the Cape an independent country, we could cut taxes in half and still have double the revenue to address issues such as this, as well as the energy crisis and many others. The Western Cape could be completely self-sufficient. (See the Division of Revenue Act – DORA). Singapore, after gaining its independence took just a few years to become the succesful country it is today, they too were subjects of colonialism.

  14. Pomegranatepip
    12 June, 2015 at 7:40 am · Reply

    Nice Pics Jean. I went for a paddle on hired kayaks off Sea Point and there was obvious sewage in the water. Disgusting. Come on Cape Town and DA . . . . are we going to be a world class city or not?

  15. Nix
    12 June, 2015 at 10:35 am · Reply

    We recently moved from CPT to Mauritius and were amazed to find that we have to deal with all our own waste here. There is no sewage system in many areas of the island and each freestanding property has a septic tank for toilet waste and a grease trap + soak away for kitchen water. We also have a grey water system to water the garden. Once installed it is very low cost but you do need to keep it clean and maintained. Maybe freestanding properties and townhouse complexes need to start dealing with their own waste and only the city centre goes through the sewage system.

    • Andy O'Gorman
      12 July, 2015 at 4:17 pm · Reply

      I agree. They do this in Oz – so why not here. Wealthy areas can afford to look after their own poop – no?

  16. melanie
    26 June, 2015 at 10:16 am · Reply

    Not acceptable , not only are we showing world our total lack of ignorance of the respective so called authorities are soupose to KNOW and Control. .cos of access to protocol.that aside it’s nit protocol that’s being “explained ” as a interpretation of oversight.
    How difficult is it to have these simple necessary engineered equipment in place.
    We going to drop our status of 5th in world fir tourism. Aren’t we dropping G already .due to our so called infrastructure.
    Please don’t think formula 1 (which by the way I’m a avid fan ) is going to bring about the problems change .!!
    Act now council before its to late !!! And our sea is ruined . And our land and our reputation .which as it stands it’s on a tight rope .
    Hope to hear millions spent in fixing this situation ,timeously.
    Regards Melanie Butcher

  17. werner schlebach
    8 July, 2015 at 6:08 pm · Reply

    Good/positive public initiative by good/positive citizens ! ! – There is hope for the Cape-Coasts as well as for the inhabitants of the mother city…but what will the seagulls live of in future:::::::::::::> 🙂

  18. Alistair
    10 July, 2015 at 1:29 pm · Reply

    Hi All

    please see this site


    it references this article and others



  19. Jenny Killeen
    10 June, 2017 at 3:45 pm · Reply

    Septic Tanks whereever possible. How do other big cities handle this problem

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