World Water Day spurs South Peninsula residents to tackle toxic water issue head-on 

Spurred on by rapid urbanisation and climate change, water is set to be the world’s next major resource crisis – an issue World Water Day is drawing attention to on 22 March, 2011. With its theme of Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge it hopes to incite governments, businesses, communities and individuals to engage and address this growing issue and is something a group of passionate South Peninsula residents have taken significant heed of.

Motivated by a legacy of water issues that affect the Kommetjie, Ocean View, Capri and Noordhoek communities, the group aims to raise awareness about persistently high toxicity levels in Wildevoelvlei among the public at an event at Blue River Café, Imhoff’s Gift on 26 March.

Liesel James, Little Green Fingers founder and environmental activist says, “The concerns about Wildevoelvlei’s toxicity levels aren’t new. In fact, a warning was issued by the City of Cape Town in December 2010 advising public to stay away from affected areas, including Noordhoek beach. However, the issue still persists and we want to pin-point its cause as well as discuss sustainable solutions as Wildevoelvlei used to be a pristine estuary but has degraded over the last two decades.”

It is alleged that the culprit is the effluent released from the Wildevoelvlei Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) into Wildevoelvlei – after it has been treated. James say, “While we are aware that the water quality of WWTW complies with Water Affairs license conditions, phosphorus levels in the final effluent are still high. We believe it is this that is causing the toxicity levels.” 

Once the treated water is released into Wildevoelvlei – which joins up with the ocean – it has the potential of causing blue-green scrum or cyanobacteria – a sometimes toxic algae – to bloom on the vlei’s surface, killing fish and crabs. When humans come into contact with it, they may experience severe allergies, diarrhoea, vomiting, muscle pains and fever. Long term drinking may even cause liver disease.

And while the likely solution is to reduce phosphates in the water, James explains that although an upgrade of the Treatment Works was conducted a few years ago, it didn’t include phosphate reduction. “We understand that phosphate stripping is part of WWTW’s long-term planning but it involves significant capital outlay plus ongoing annual operating costs.”

In the meantime, James is investigating alternative solutions such as a bio-digester. It creates methane gas from sewage which can then be used to generate energy. She says, “The energy created from the bio-digester can help disadvantaged communities like Masiphumulele become less dependent on the national grid. This will spare resources and is the most environmentally sustainable option.”

The bio-digester will be among talk topics given to the public on the day. Others include a review of the current water situation (Kevin James: Global Carbon Exchange) and a comprehensive history of the area (Wally Peterson: Founder of KEAG). A community clean-up of Kommetjie Beach will conclude the event.

“Clean water is a right; not a privilege. As such we urge the community to participate in this event to not only educate themselves about water, and how to save it, but also to help develop solutions to overcome this ongoing issue that puts our children, pets and environment at risk,” concludes James.

Kids’ edu-entertainment will be performed by ToadNUTS, an environmental group that protects the declining number of Western leopard toads in the area, while Ocean View’s Marine Primary Environmental Group will perform the ‘Water Song’.

The event starts at 9am. A full programme is available on www.littlegreenfingers.ning.com. For more information call 0711987875.

ENDS

Issued on behalf of:

Liesel James: Founder of Little Green Fingers

Cell: 0711987875

Email: littlegreenfingers@gmail.com

Website: www. Littlegreenfingers.ning.com

Issued by:

Rebecca Cronje

Cell: 072 257 8255

Email: Rebecca@atmosphere.co.za