Dog owners concerned about pollution in vlei

Greta Wilson’s dog, Sadie, at Zandvlei.

Dog owners are keeping their pets out of the Westlake River and Zandvlei because they fear pollution in these waterways will make them sick.

Yvonne Zwiegelaar, who owns a dog-training school, says she only went to Zandvlei once but did not enjoy the experience.

“My dogs farted like crazy, clearly due to the water quality that immediately impacts on gut health.”

Marguerite Winton, of Bergvliet, will not allow her dogs to swim anywhere below the mountain because the water is “absolutely horrendous”.

“As ratepayers, we should protest about this sewage. We pay through the nose to have it treated and disposed of properly,” said Ms Winton.

In October, Greta Wilson, of Lakeside, was walking with a friend and their two dogs when she noticed blood coming from her dog Sadie’s stool. A vet later diagnosed a urinary bladder infection.

Ms Wilson believes it was caused by her dog being exposed to polluted water in Westlake River and Zandvlei.

On Wednesday December 9, Tracy Tuck reported seeing sewage in Westlake River while walking her dogs.

She said the stench had been overpowering.

At the same time, Kate Steward said the river along Raapkraal Road in Kirstenhof was foaming and bright yellow.

Ward councillor Penny East reported the sighting to the City of Cape Town’s wastewater team who checked almost immediately but could find nothing.

Earlier this year, site inspections found breaks along the City’s sewer line that leaked sewage into one of two dams in the agricultural area in the grounds of Pollsmoor Prison.

Pollsmoor spokesman, Lewies Davids, said the Department of Public Works was continuously taking samples of the water in the dam to test for any irregularities, and a contractor had resumed cleaning vegetation growing in the dam.

“Our intention is to convert those plants into compost for our agricultural land,” he said.

Dr Melissa Oettle, at Peninsula Vet, said the E Coli to blame for Sadie’s infection could have come from various sources.

“Most of the cases we see are actually from the dog’s own faeces, but it is possible, although unlikely, from the Zandvlei or the catchment area.”

The cost of treatment, without complications, was around R950, including medicines, she said.

In an email to Ms Wilson, Zandvlei Nature Reserve manager, Kyran Wright, said E Coli was a common intestinal micro-organism.

“Many human urinary tract infections are caused by E coli. However, this seldom is contracted via exposure to dirty water.”

Marian Nieuwoudt, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said there was no conclusive link between Ms Wilson’s dog’s ailment and sewage spills in Zandvlei.

“While Zandvlei has received sewage spills in the past, it also receives faecal waste from birds and other animals using the wetland.”

When sewage spills happened, the public were informed as soon as possible to avoid affected areas, she said.

Last month, the province’s environmental inspectors, or “Green Scorpions”, gave notice to the City and Pollsmoor Prison to clean up their act, or be fined.

The unit, which is part of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP), issued the order after its inspectors followed up on reports of sewage and other pollutants in the Westlake River coming from Westlake Village sewers and Pollsmoor dam.

Last week, DEADP spokesman, Sputnik Ratau, said the department’s last visit to Westlake Village and the prison, a month ago, had found an improvement in water quality.

  • Any pollution of rivers, wetlands or estuaries within the metro can be reported to Derril Daniels at danielsd@dws.gov.za or Nelisa Ndobeni at NdobeniN2@dws.gov.za, who are based at DEADP Western Cape’s regional office.