I like to swim in the sea on Dolphin Beach everyday, weather permitting. For me, it is one of the major perks of staying in this pretty coastal town. This beach is the foundation of the tourist trade in Jeffreys Bay. It alone is the reason why thousands of holidaymakers visit us each year, and why they don’t visit Gamtoos Mouth, or Humansdorp, or Hankey in the same numbers. Together with the perfect break at Supertubes, the pristine sand and beautiful waves at main beach are our single greatest asset, and yet our civic leaders are allowing this resource to rot before our eyes.
The beach is filthy. Broken glass and plastic bags litter the beach. Although there are always council staff lounging around, no one is cleaning the beach. Visitors must carefully pick their way through the infested sand, over the collapsed concrete paving, past the disconnected showers, around the pools of waste water. Stupidly placed waste water outlets gouge holes in the sand every time it rains, right under the main steps down onto the beach. Failed pumps allow great dams of raw sewage to pollute the beach near the Ski boat club. Our premier asset has to be closed to avoid poisoning our visitors and ourselves. Should we be surprised if these visitors never return?
Our beautiful beach, widely acknowledged as one of the best in the country, has lost its blue flag status. How many overseas visitors, surfing the internet for blue flag beaches to visit, never discover Jeffreys Bay because it isn’t there on the list. What is the cost to our economy of the visitors who never came? How many more became unemployed because there were no visitors to service? Is the council doing all it can to recover our blue flag status? Is it cleaning up the beach after every minor storm? Is it repairing the damage done by its own badly situated stormwater drains? Is it containing the sewage leaks, repairing the infrastructure, investing in our single greatest asset? Or is it refurbishing the mayor’s office?
The following information is extracted from a letter from WESSA (the blue flag coordinator) to the Kouga Municipality (KM):
· The South African National Blue Flag jury meets on 1st July 2012.
· WESSA would probably conduct a completion inspection by 1 September 2011.
· By this time KM must have replaced the two inadequate pumps with two larger capacity pumps to handle the December and Easter peak sewage flow.
· Full blue flag status will not be awarded if the new pumps have not been replaced and are not fully operational by 1 October 2011.
· WESSA would probably adopt the same measure as in this past season in that any Blue Flag status shall be immediately withdrawn for the rest of the season if a sewage spill occurs during the season. This would be for any reason besides factors beyond municipal control, such as lengthy regional power-outage.
· If the pumps cannot be replaced by October 2011, Kouga Municipality is advised that the SA National Blue Flag Jury would probably not be in favour of granting pilot status, due to risks of further sewage spills and negative publicity to the Blue Flag programme and to the Kouga Municipality.
In summary – Jeffreys Bay has until 1 September 2011 to get its act together, to install adequate pumps to control sewage flow, to tidy up main beach, and to attempt to regain our coveted Blue Flag Status. Failure to do so will be disastrous.