When Earth Kids act on Else River, they tackle an issue close to their hearts: water, water conservation, ecosystem health and biodiversity preservation. They have learned how intricate such natural resources are and how necessary they are to human survival on this planet.
Reporting a Polluted Water Source
What do you do when a river you know becomes so polluted with raw sewage that dogs and other creatures suffer terribly? What do you do when a river running through your area stinks of raw sewage which flows into a pristine wetland and then into the ocean?
You take action! And that is exactly what the Earth Kids did. They took on the Else River in Welcome Glen as their first major environmental issue. If we do not act on issues that affect our natural environment (and us) then we should not complain. We need to become involved and do something for Mother Earth!
The worst part about this river issue is that Cape Town’s False Bay has been in the news for reported sewage leaks in other areas too. Sewage has been reportedly pouring into the ocean at Milnerton and Hout Bay too. This is not on! The public needs to take ownership of their local environments as no one else will.
Locals Love the Else River
Several Earth Kids live near Welcome Glen and the Glencairn Wetland. They have also visited the area on several outings to discuss the beautiful biodiversity inherent to the valley.
When push came to shove, the Earth School Earth’s Cool team visited the catchment in reaction to a report of raw sewage spewing into the Else River higher up in Da Gama Park, behind the navy shop and pub. This happens to be the only river in the Southern Peninsula emerging from a spring and a dam, within a catchment area, that then flows past residential areas, into the Glencairn Wetlands, and out to the ocean at Glencairn Beach.
Community involvement has also contributed to the focus on the Else River and it was Lindy Rich of the Welcome Glen Neighbourhood Watch who informed the relevant authorities. The Else River also flows through a large section of Navy land, and a beautiful Rotary Camp run by Koos Burger.
Thanks to this action-taking, water tests were carried out and E.coli was reported. Someone suggested that signage should be erected at the vlei to warn the public. In fact, the sign erected at the river mouth on the beach has fallen over several times!
We all Want Answers!
Erth kids feel that this is not enough. Meanwhile, the investigation has lead to the door of the Navy – will they give us answers to resolve this issue? The sewage spill stems from a Navy residential area and a Navy shop and the river runs through their property.
In the meantime, Earth School’s Brave Green Kids interviewed Tressa Colmer, (resident in Welcome Glen and principal of ES), Lindy Rich and Simon Liell-Cock (DA Ward Councilor). They included other video footage from last year when the river was clean.
“We are extremely distressed by the contamination of the Els River which flows through Glencairn into the Glencairn Vlei, with raw sewerage,” highlighted Lindy Rich in a letter to the relevant authorities. She noted that she has been emailing them concerning the same issue since 26 May 2018!
“We first had blockages of sewerage lines due to fibre optic cables being threaded through them. This resulted in numerous sewerage spills along Glen Road, all ultimately ending in the Els River. At the same time the Navy had a contractor on site outside Crewsoes Pub in Da Gama Road, Da Gama Park, who is bypassing a sewerage drain with a pipe, whilst repairs are in progress.”
Raw Sewage Runs Deep
It is crazy that these repairs have been ongoing for at least two years! Why? What is going on that no one can fix this mess? A generator is used to bypass the drains and is manually operated by contractors on site. According to the contractor, he needs to get to a depth of 9 meters in order to repair the problem. But he is currently only at 4 meters with a shored-up hole open to the public at one end! This is a danger to everyone, with no fencing around it!
“Our Councillors have stated it is on Navy land hence their hands being tied, ” adds Lindy. But the Els River flows into the Glencairn Vlei which is City owned. She is very concerned that Rotary has camps along Glen Road where underprivileged children have the use of the facility. And that residents and their dogs swim in the river. What a major health hazard to all.
Raw sewerage is regularly seen in the river. Earth School sent their own pictures to local councillors, Simon Liell-Cock and Felicity Purchase. The DEA sent their inspector and all seem satisfied that the Contractor is abiding by the rules and regulations in terms of the Environmental Act.
But we want to know WHY there is a smell of sewerage in the area? We want to know WHERE the raw sewerage is coming from if City Inspector and DEA Inspector are satisfied with the operations of the Contractor? Is there perhaps a pump station failure or a broken pipe elsewhere?
What is E.coli?
“Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.
E. coli consists of a diverse group of bacteria. Pathogenic E. coli strains are categorized into pathotypes. Six pathotypes are associated with diarrhea and collectively are referred to as diarrheagenic E. coli.”
History of the Else River
The Else River is approximately 8km long, and drains a catchment of approximately 18km². The upper catchment consists of a plateau ringed by small mountains, and is drained by numerous small streams which join to form the Else River. From the plateau the river runs down a steep narrow valley which flattens out to form a vlei within the last kilometre before reaching the sea.
In the winter the Elsje’s River, which sprang from high up in the hills near Simon’s Town spilled its brown floodwaters over the floor of the valley before it reached the sea. In the summer the river kept to its channel on the southern side. On its banks there used to grow many els trees, their candles of white flowers scenting the air in the late summer and autumn. Mr Dawid de Villiers, the former owner of Welcome Farm in the valley, said that in his grandfather’s time a number of these trees were still growing there, but, unfortunately for them, the wood is both useful and attractive, and the trees have fallen to the axe. They must have given the name to the river and its bay and the tall peak.