It was not untreated sewage that poured into the sea at Brighton Beach on Tuesday – but could possibly have been poorly treated sewage.
That is the word from the official in charge of wastewater treatment in the metro, Anderson Mancotywa.
He was speaking at a meeting yesterday called by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality mayoral committee head of infrastructure and engineering Annette Lovemore.
The meeting followed The Herald’s Wednesday story of what appeared to be untreated sewage pouring out of a Fishwater Flats wastewater treatment works discharge pipe at Brighton Beach.
Mancotywa said the flat-bottom design of Fishwater Flats’ 40-year old treatment ponds made the surface of the water being processed susceptible to turbulence.
Sometimes wind then combined to “lift the sludge blanket”, causing problems.
There were also stilling boxes which were collapsing and needed to be replaced, and during this process some capacity was temporarily lost, he said.
“So it’s an operational issue. Even at worst it [at Brighton Beach] was not raw or untreated sewage. That’s not possible. It may have been poorly treated sewage.”
Samples had been taken and logs were being checked in a further investigation.
The Herald was alerted to the pollution by NMMU marine biologist Professor Nadine Strydom, whose aerial photograph showed a dark brown plume extending from the end of the Brighton Beach pier.
When The Herald went there on Tuesday, there was an unpleasant smell on the onshore breeze, the sea was dark brown and anglers said they regularly saw faeces and other toilet debris in the water.
Strydom said yesterday the proximity of the Swartkops estuary, already besieged by upriver pollution, was another reason why the situation was perilous.
Department of Water Affairs (DWA) representative at yesterday’s meeting David Bligh said the metro was, in general, not complying with the law in terms of the quality of processed wastewater it was discharging.
This was especially true at its Papenkuils pipe which discharged processed industrial effluent. “The sludge there is like mud. We need a sludge audit and we have been trying to get that from this metro.”
The metro’s director of water and sewage, Barry Martin, said they had responded to the DWA’s call in this regard and had in turn been met with no support when they tried to address the problem by getting the excess sludge disposed of at Uitenhage’s Koedoeskloof waste disposal site.
Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Zolile Nqayi said it had asked the municipality to provide it with the full investigation report.