Coast KZN

11 May 2021

Foul discharge into Cuttings Beach fuels frustrations

Nothando Mthembu (Southlands Sun) Picture: South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) Coordinator, Desmond D’sa and Cuttings Beach Fishing Forum chairperson, Rishi Ganas at Cutting Beach in Merebank.

An overflow of a foul smelling, black discharge into Cuttings Beach from Friday evening, 30 April, is behind the frustration of the Merebank community and local fisherfolk.

The beach, which is geographically situated behind major chemical production industries as well as the Southern Waste Water Treatment Works (SWWTW), was on the receiving end of a suspected sewerage surcharge. This was the explanation provided by eThekwini Municipality, which further stated that it would be working to address the issue and that the beach would remain closed until further notice.

This response hasn’t, however, been well received by the public. Merebank resident and chairperson for the Cuttings Beach Fishing Forum, Rishi Ganas, said that this was a common, ongoing problem at the beach.

“The problem is that every time a spillage comes through and is deposited into the ocean, our fishermen have a problem that the fish migrate from where they can access them. We’ve got about 150 registered fishermen in the forum. Most of them fish for a living. And when this happens they have no fish to catch, sell or eat. This has been a problem for a long time now and nothing has been done to resolve it.

Cuttings Beach Fishing Forum chairperson, Rishi Ganas and South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) Coordinator, Desmond D’sa at Cutting Beach in Merebank.

“This re-occurring disposal of chemicals is also damaging to the ocean and marine life. When we do report it, we’re told that it’s just an overflow from the SWWTW plant. But that is a lie because every time there is heavy rainfall, they release these chemicals into the beach. A lot of our members are educated and have an understanding of how these systems and processes work. To lie to the public is not fair. On Saturday morning, some of the fishermen called me and informed me about the chemicals being passed into the ocean,” said Ganas, who shared that he managed to get hold of South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) coordinator, Desmond D’sa, who took samples of the contaminated water to get tested.

D’sa confirmed taking samples of the water on Saturday morning, 1 May. “I arrived early on Saturday and it was still bad with a foul smell. We took samples and sent them off to a laboratory in Pietermaritzburg to have it analysed. The results should be ready in about 10 days. I tried to report this incident to various council officials, but not one person was available. The city claims that they closed the beach, but that’s a lie. The beach was never closed.

“The sad part is that there was a council vehicle from SWWTW that came out into the area at the time of the incident. The guy was hiding his badge, we came there and we stopped and questioned him about the issue. Within three hours the valve releasing the chemicals was closed. They were releasing untreated chemicals illegally into the sea. The eThekwini Municipality is in violation of its own by-laws. Cuttings Beach will remain an orphan beach for as long as there is no law enforcement and a lack of political will from our government to prosecute and arrest people in power. We call on the national Department of Environmental Affairs to investigate why this is being allowed to happen,” said D’sa.

When approached for comment in response to the allegations put against the city, eThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela said, “Please note that the Cuttings Beach was closed since September last year due to the tie-in of the new beach section of the sea outfall pipeline. The signs for the beach closure were in place, but it was discovered that they were removed while they were not supposed to have been removed. Hence, the advisory was issued to warn residents on Saturday.

“The incident reported was a result of the bypass of effluent due to heavy rains which could not be contained in all three tanks within the works. This is a normal practice as it is allowed by the Coastal Waters Discharge Permit (CWDP) issued to eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) by Environmental Affairs subject to compliance with the requirements of the permit and the effluent is discharged straight to the sea via a sea outfall pipeline. If there is an overspill due to heavy rains in the process, authorities, the public and our pollution team engage in the management plan to mitigate the overspill. Please note that during these occurrences the city will always move with speed to notify residents to ensure their safety.”