Clean-up of Garden Route beaches underway

The Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Joint Operations Centre (JOC) hosted a meeting on Wednesday 30 November 2022 with a number of key stakeholders to discuss the current state of the small-scale oil/hydrocarbons spill that was detected on some of the Garden Route beaches in the last day or two. The key objective is to mitigate the effects of oil droplets on the environment and marine life, as well as to promptly clean the temporarily closed beaches and re-open them before the holiday season.

Cleaning teams on the ground in Mossel Bay use a water filtration system to float off droplets of oil from exposed areas of sand collected from the affected beaches. This will be duplicated elsewhere where beaches are temporarily affected by the contaminants. In addition to this, estuaries that are currently open i.e. Hartenbos, Kleinbrak, Knysna, as well as Keurbooms, are closely monitored for any droplets.

The droplets are notably higher in density during high tide and their size of them differs per area. The Hessequa local municipality indicated that the ones found at the Gouritz beach were only the size of the head of a match, Bitou Municipality found 5mm size ones and Mossel Bay found larger ones.

The way forward is for GRDM to have specialists from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, as well as South African National Parks, do a reconnaissance flight later today or early tomorrow morning (dependent on the weather), to scan the coastline from Gouritz to Plettenberg Bay. This will assist them to determine the origin of the spill as well as monitoring if any others are still en route to any of the Garden Route beaches.

While the clean-up and isolation actions are underway, beaches will be classified according to specific colour codes: green, orange, and red. These indicate the readiness of beaches for the public to access them again.



CAUTION

Members of the public are urged to stay pro-active by not walking on beaches that are closed or swimming in red or orange-classified beach areas until further notice. For those who mistakenly access areas where beaches are closed and come into contact with the oily substance, foot-cleaning stations will be set up. There is already one at the Hartenbos Blue Flag beach.

Possible cleaning methods if you do come into contact with oil droplets:

Step 1: Combine a teaspoon of baking soda and a quarter of a cup of normal white vinegar in a mixing bowl.

Step 2: Scrub your hands with the baking soda and vinegar mixture.

Step 3: After rinsing your hands in water, wash them with regular soap and water.

Or use a normal grease-cutting hand cleaner.

TOURISM
It is not likely that the temporary closure of some beaches will have an impact on the holiday season ahead. Cleaning of beaches are underway, and several beaches are ready to be re-opened again.

If any member of the public notices small black pellets on any beach along the Garden Route, please report it to the Emergency Call Centre, 044 805 5071.

The Garden Route District Municipality Joint Operations Centre includes the following stakeholders: Garden Route District Municipality, Bitou, Knysna, George, Mossel Bay and Hessequa Municipalities, Provincial Disaster Management Centre, South African Maritime Association, DFFE: Oceans to Coast, Transnet, CapeNature, PetroSA, South African National Parks (SANParks) and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).


 

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