Thursday, June 16, 2016

CAPE TOWN SCANDAL: City won't stop dumping your money

Dear Cape Town Citizens,
Van Eeden

          Your Council continues to play in its favourite sand pit with thousands of your ratepayer’s money. It will be millions more before you know it the way the bungling is going on.
          This would be on top of the R5-million that has already been thrown away on failed experiments at a rubbish dump site that was closed for refuse 30 years ago.
            Ironically it comes just as all our service charges are about to go up by almost 10% - well above the inflation rate.
          The site is at Witsands next to a popular surfing and wind surfing beach not far from Cape Point.
          It is also a short distance from the troubled Black township of Masiphumelele and the Coloured one of Ocean View where they are crying out for funds to upgrade the facilities.

February & March earth moving takes place

          In February and March this year a regiment of huge earth moving equipment spent more than a month rearranging the sand dunes – something that has been going on more or less in the same way for the last 10 years.
          The purpose of this massive expenditure of R500 000 a year or more has been to stop what is left of the buried rubbish from being washed into the sea by keeping it well covered in an area where strong winds shift the sand around at most times of the year.
          My impression is that instead of solving the problem these machines make the dunes even more unstable and destroy any vegetation that could hold it together that might have started growing on them.

May 10 road has to be cleared of sand.

The job was done so poorly that less than two months after the dune moving had been completed a front end loader had to clear a nearby road that was covered in sand.

June 8 earth movers are back doing exactly what they had done before

That was early in May. Now a month later on 8 June the same number of earth movers - a huge tracked bulldozer and excavator as well as two dumper trucks – were brought in once again to cover large sections of non-biodegradable material like glass and plastic that the wind had uncovered.  
Sand being dumped in June in exactly the same place as
it was put earlier in the year in February/March
March 7 net fencing is erected

The R200 000 net fencing on a 4 ha ridge that had been built up parallel to the sea also proved to be a complete failure.
          This “tried and tested” method was put up last March by Vula Environmental Restoration that claims to be dune restoration specialists.
          “The nets work by disrupting the airflow thus forcing wind to drop the sand load within the net field on top of the old landfill site,” Deon van Eeden the head of Vula told me. “The sand is then retained where it is required.”

March 13 first winter storms flattens or buries nets

          The system failed completely to retain the sand because the wind was so strong during the first two winter storms that most of the 5 km of netting was either buried completely or flattened. And a large area of rubbish was exposed between the nets.
Net graveyard
May 30 some netting removed to prepare for the dumping of more sand

          They then had to be partially removed so that tons more sand from further inland could be brought in to cover the exposed area.
          “The nets are maintained by lifting so as to retain their functionality and to continue to catch the sand in the target area,” Van Eeden said.
          It is weeks since the nets were trashed and very little has been done to raise them again.
Nets removed to make way for more sand to be dumped
          Vula's contract runs until March 2017, but as the nets have been so ineffective so far it would seem pointless in having them replaced.       
          In any event he revealed that they were only put there in a “test” section to “inform the formulation of the future management strategy for the Witsands landfill.”
After playing in this sand pit for more than 10 years I would have thought the Council and its experts would have finished experiments years ago.
I pointed out to Van Eeden that William Woodhouse, a Professor of Soil Science and a member of the US Army Corps of Engineers, who was an expert on dune stabilization, maintained that the most effective way of doing this was with vegetation. It was the only permanent solution as well as being very cost effective.
Van Eeden’s firm claims to have stabilized dunes with indigenous grasses and to be able to produce vast quantities of indigenous plant seed. So I asked him why the vegetation method had not been adopted at Witsands.
“The reason why the entire 19 ha has not been instantaneously vegetated is that there has not been a detailed study of the viability of this and there is not an Environmental Authorisation in terms of the relevant legislation to implement this,” he told me.
Mounds of sand that were covered naturally by the
          indigenous vegetation shows that this could possibly
be grown over the whole site

Councillor Johan van der Merwe the Mayoral Committee Member for Environmental Planning gave me a similar explanation when he said, “It was almost impossible to do this as the sand is naturally mobile and if it were to be successful this natural system would require several authorisations.”
          “These,” he added, “Were a Standard Operating Protocol as part of land fill closure.”
        It is a terrible indictment on the Council that 30 years after the dump was closed it has done nothing to overcome the bureaucratic stumbling block that would have enable it to try covering the site with vegetation – a method that all the international experts say is the one sure way of permanently stabilising dunes. And if it worked the Council might never have to spend another cent there again.
        There is no question that vegetation will not grow there because all around the dump site the dunes are covered with it growing naturally.
          Van Eeden confused the issue of whether to plant vegetation or not when he told me that the net system was “indeed non-permanent but it aids significantly in creating a stable environment and micro climate where seeds naturally occurring in the sand can germinate. It is clear from past efforts that the unstable environment is not conducive to self stabilisation.”
Another example of vegetation covered mounds in the
middle of the land fill site
          Both he and the Council’s experts don’t seem to have taken into account that Witsands is almost at what is known as the “Cape of Storms” and that is why the net system did not work making it necessary to bring in the earth movers once again.
           The cost of hiring these is mind boggling made worse because each of them has to be transported to and from the site on a low bed truck. Somebody is making a killing and they are not from either of the nearby townships I mentioned earlier.
          Nothing will stop the City from continuing to build sand castles over and over again with your money while it steadfastly refuses to adopt the only method that could solve the problem once and for all at a minimum cost.  
What is being done is about as futile as digging holes, filling them in and then digging them out again, only in this case it’s at GREAT COST.
          It is a disgraceful, outrageous SCANDAL that should stop immediately because it can only seriously damage the Council’s reputation.
          Jon, a Consumer Watchdog who does his best to make sure his bark is heard.

P.S. Before I put this on my blog I sent it to Johan van der Merwe and invited him to make any comments he wished. The reply I got was: “Please feel free to proceed without City comment.”
Earlier Posts: 
Cape Town's never ending money dump
Is Cape Town still wasting money on a rubbish dump closed 30 years ago

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