Hundreds of dead fish in Seekoei Estuary today

By Bev Mortimer

Photos: Koffie Jacobs and Freddie van Rooyen

Hundreds of dead fish were floating today in the Seekoei Estuary in Aston Bay after what looked like polluted water was seen running from the Jeffreys Bay Sewage Treatments plant into the Swart River which runs into the estuary.

And before the many of the fish died today, several people were seen scrambling in the water and catching the fish to eat, while children were seen swimming in the estuary.

According to well-known Jeffreys Bay resident, Koffie Jacobs, who took these photos this morning, he was told by Kouga mayor, Horatio Hendricks, a few days ago in a meeting that there was no pollution, that ‘everything was fine with the water in the Seekoei’ and the dreadful polluted smell was from natural causes.
On social media people were questioning today how fish dying can be from natural causes and not from pollution?
On 7 February the municipality put out a press release stating that the municipality was not dumping sewage into the Seekoei estuary. This came after what the municipality called “unfounded allegations” made on social media that it is purposefully dumping raw sewage into the Seekoei Estuary, resulting in a high count of ecoli. The municipality denied this.
The municipality claimed that it measures water quality on a monthly basis. “And results of measurements at the inflow into the Estuary on 12 January 2023 are within required standards.”
The municipal press release stated the offensive smell around the estuary emanates, not from raw sewage, but from a natural process called ‘eutrophication’. The municipality said: “Eutrophication in estuaries results in dead zones, fish kill and “algae bloom” with its characteristic extremely unpleasant smell.
“Algae bloom occurs when environmental conditions become favourable. Increased nutrients in the water lead to rapid and harmful phytoplankton (algae) growth.
“The causes are various, often and mistakenly assumed to be sewage. Weather conditions, water temperature, rate of fresh water entering the system, reduced volume, increased salinity, industrial or agricultural run-off and insufficient flushing can all contribute.
“As the algae blooms on the surface of the water decomposes, a cycle of more nutrients in the estuary ensues, creating, additional algae blooms and potentially other harmful bacteria such as ecoli. The gas methane is also released which is the cause of the foul smell that accompanies this process.”
The municipality admitted though that in December 2022 there was a sewer spill as a result of a blockage, this caused a manhole to overflow. “The spill entered the storm water system and eventually entered the Seekoei.”
Jacobs says according to the municipality there is nothing wrong. However, he said: “According to our investigations the water treatment plant is a good possibility of the cause of the contamination due the high levels of ecoli we tested in the big stream of water that’s running into the Swart River – during a huge drought?
“Untreated sewerage has been flowing into the Swart river but the municipality insists there is no sewage running into the Seekoei River,” he and many other residents in Aston Bay area have claimed.
Meanwhile another local, Freddie van Rooyen of Masikhathalelaneni organisation, says this pollution has been going on since 2019 when a charge against the municipality was laid with the Department of Environment Affairs, but it appears nothing has been done.
The pollution of the Seekoei reports started again in September last year, he alleges, and have continued, resulting in the latest catastrophe of hundreds of dead fish, Van Rooyen sadly laments.
He says he has now laid a charge of environmental pollution with the department. “This is because nothing came from the first docket of 2019. The docket was with the department which gave the municipality directives .
“ We have been witnessing sewage at Main Beach since 2019, plus at Pellsrus beach and 4B pump station. The worst is the millions of untreated sewage that came from the plant over the past few years for to the estuary,” he and others allege.
Meanwhile other observers have remarked that Dolphin Beach lost its blue Flag a couple of years ago owing to sewage reports and the Kouga Municipality received a highly damaging sewage report from the 2022 Green Drop Report.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike Ferguson says:

    The story of the Seekoe is an old one with many contributers to the current sad state of affairs. Follow the catchment and you will find 1. Many illegal dams, restricting the natural, periodic flushing of the system.
    2. Dairy farmers flushing animal waste in huge quantities from dairies and feedlots into the system as well as 3. Humansdorp’s sewerage works contributing their “overflow” quite liberally.
    It’s not just the estuary that is dead but almost the entire catchment. Really pitiful and disgraceful situation , not only on the part of the local authorities but on the citizens who allow this situation to reach these levels without raising their collective voice.

  2. Leon Scheepers says:

    I personally think that you will find it interesting that the overflow of sewage water in Humansdorp itself ends up in Seekoei estuary. Follow the river upstream and see how bad the situation gets in the water quality the closer you get to the sewage dumpsite in Humansdorp itself. Just a comment from someone that have followed the trucks right up to the pump station. Shocking to see the great plans these managers come up with. The very best excuses they come up with. All that’s needed is to open up the mouth to the estuary and keep it open and nature will take care of itself. Marine lie in the estuary started to make a great recovery at the end of last year but right now everything rotting away again. Soon the birds will follow and blaau blaau blaau. Who really cares. Nobody in the Driving seats.

  3. Johanna Van Rooyen says:

    This is really so sad that this is happening and we wanted to buy property in Aston.

  4. Johanna Van Rooyen says:

    This is really so sad that this is happening and we wanted to buy property in Aston.

  5. Mike says:

    Eutrophication on this scale requires more than what is going on at the estuary end. It requires large, constant supply of unnaturally high levels of nutrients into the system. Breaching the mouth is but a short term fix. Eutrophication is NOT the cause of the death of the system its the RESULT of the gross mismanagement and misuse of the entire catchment. Siting eutrophication as the cause is like saying ” the poor guy died of lack of oxygen” when actually his house burned down with him inside.

    The dead fish are all juveniles of more-or-less similar age, indicating to me that they entered the estuary some time earlier in their short life ( possibly even as hatchlings ) when the mouth was open, thinking they would happily mature to adulthood in ideal estuarine conditions and then find their way back to the big blue to continue their existence, much as their predecessors have done .

    Sorry guys ! RIP

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