It’s going to be a scorcher today, so if you were planning on spending Valentine’s Day afternoon at the beach, I’m here to ruin that for you.
Somewhere in the back your mind, you always knew that Cape Town’s beaches are occasionally contaminated by faecal bacteria such as E.coli.
More worrying is the pharmaceuticals and chemicals from household cleaning products that are dumped with the sewage into the sea.
Cape Town flushes several million litres of essentially raw sewage into the sea every day through the City’s marine outfalls at Green Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay.
Within this effluent are persistent organic compounds such as antibiotics, analgesics, blood lipid regulators, natural and synthetic hormones, beta-blockers, antidiabetic and blood pressure drugs, as well as chemicals from soaps, detergents, disinfectants, perfumes, dental care products, skin and hair products.
Scientists have studied marine life in Granger Bay, finding a cocktail of 15 pharmacological compounds in limpets, mussels, sea urchins, starfish, sea snails, and seaweed collected from rock pools.
And those are just the chemicals they actually tested for – there are hundreds more.
“These compounds could cause far more harm than the sewage itself, such as feminisation or sterility of fish populations, cancer, growth deformities, foetal abnormalities and hormonal disturbances.
These compounds may bioaccumulate in marine organisms, and thus move up the food chain to humans who eat seafood, ultimately causing the same effects,” states a scientific paper published in 2017 by Leslie Petrik, Lesley Green, Adeola P Abegunde, Melissa Zackon, Cecilia Y Sanusi and Jo Barnes.
The paper, Desalination and seawater quality at Green Point, Cape Town: A study on the effects of marine sewage outfalls, also reports that chemicals are being dumped faster than organisms can process them.
The contaminants are being released into the water through sewage outfalls, but the City is refusing to acknowledge the problem.
Mayoral committee member for water and waste services, Xanthea Limberg, said according to the World Health Organisation, there was no health risk, and furthermore, our beaches are less contaminated than beaches elsewhere.
Sure. But what about the mussels and starfish?
The City needed to start investigating new sewage treatment technologies, but residents should also take responsibility for what they flush down toilets and drains.
Rather than using products full of chemicals, residents should opt for environmentally friendly products and use bleach, which breaks down into its constituent salts, for disinfection, rather than antiseptics.
Something to think about as you sit on the poop and chemical-infused sand later today, looking out over the poop and chemical-infused ocean.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
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