From: Morne Viljoen <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 09:50:02 +0200
To: "Trevor Babich (Fishingowl)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Hout Bay reservoir 'used as open toilet'
Hout Bay reservoir 'used as open toilet'
IOL.co.za - November 02 2006 at 04:36AM
Hout Bay is facing a looming health crisis as storm water flowing through Imizamo Yethu into the Disa River has been found to contain a staggering nine billion disease-causing organisms in less than half a cup of water.
Water Affairs' guidelines are that water with only 2 000 such organisms in 100ml of water constitutes a "high risk", even from partial contact with the polluted water.
And the area around Hout Bay's reservoir, which supplies water to the suburb, is used as an open lavatory by people without access to sanitation.
The Disa River carries the polluted water through the residential area, across the beach into the bay. The pathogenic organisms are likely to be taken up by Hout Bay's rock lobster, which would pose a health hazard for anyone eating these lobsters. Now the original 2 000 residents of Imizamo Yethu and the Hout Bay Policing Forum are taking the City of Cape Town to court for failing to carry out its constitutional responsibility to provide proper services and housing to the people of the informal settlement.
The results of the water analysis, released this week, are to form part of the legal case the residents are compiling against the city.
A specialist study from Unisa also shows that the authorities have failed to comply with land use planning laws in Imizamo Yethu.
A group of residents met mayor Helen Zille on Wednesday to inform her of the looming health crisis and to tell her of the proposed legal action.
Jo Barnes, from the University of Stellenbosch, who conducted the water analysis, became ill with haemorrhagic cystitis, after collecting samples of the polluted water. "I did not wear a face mask, and I suppose I must have got a tiny droplet on my mouth. With pathogen counts of nine billion in 100ml, which is less than half a cup of water, all you need is the smallest droplet on your lip. Depending on your immune system - and I had just had flu - you need only swallow between 50 and 200 organisms to become ill," Barnes said.
The pathogens were E. coli organisms, including "the really bad-news one" called E. coli 0157, she said.
"I took samples from water in a concrete stormwater drain in Imizamo Yethu ... all sorts of things are (being) dumped into it, including human excrement from hundreds of chamber pots by residents who have no toilets. This has effectively turned the stormwater drain into an open sewer."
Mayor Helen Zille said on Wednesday that she had inspected Imizamo Yethu last Saturday after she first heard of the impending court action. "I've asked for the original water analysis report. It looks as if we could face a serious health crisis and obviously it is our responsibility to deal with that."
Zille said she had climbed up to the reservoir on Saturday.
"I didn't quite expect what I saw. There are no toilet facilities, so the entire area around the reservoir is used as a toilet.
"It is a very serious situation and we are looking at options."
Margo Haywood, of Hout Bay's community policing forum, said the forum had been negotiating with the city council for 13 years to sort out the problems in Imizamo Yethu.
"But it has not helped. Successive councils have allowed the situation to deteriorate.
"I was quoted in a newspaper last year as saying the forum felt so frustrated we wanted to sue the council, and I got calls from all over the Peninsula from people who said they would help pay our legal costs.
"Without any fund-raising attempts we got R100 000. We used that money to pay for the specialist studies and consulted an advocate.
"The people of Imizamo Yethu have to live in this filth and (with) terrible crime, where 13-year-old girls are raped.
"The original 2 200 people who settled at Imizamo Yethu and have been waiting 10 years for houses, are the first applicants in the case."
Morné ViljoenNatural Resources Law Department
(W) (011) 886-4628
(F) (011) 886-4452