x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Swimmers warned about sewage near sailing club

Dubai Municipality issues a health warning due to contamination caused by illegal dumping.

Filth pollutes the water near the sailing club.
Filth pollutes the water near the sailing club.

DUBAI // Dubai Municipality has issued a health warning urging people to keep out of the water at beaches near the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club due to sewage contamination caused by illegal dumping. The authorities disclosed they had already caught and fined 27 illegal sewage dumpers so far this month, and had launched extra night patrols to catch others, demonstrating the extent of the problem.

Mohammed Hassan, the head of the municipality's marine environment and sanctuaries section, said: "The 150-metre stretch along the club has been contaminated and people should stay away from this area." The authorities believe the contamination is confined to the sailing club area. The official warning comes weeks after the tide washed raw sewage into the club's harbour and a nearby beach. Several people who had swum in the water became ill.

Earlier this month, the sailing club also had its Royal Yachting Association accreditation to teach suspended and had to delay its latest regatta because of the sewage. The licence was later reinstated but with conditions, and the club has since been forced to suspend activities. "We are taking this very seriously," said Abdul Majeed, director of the municipality's drainage and irrigation network. "We are putting more manpower in place at night time when it usually occurs."

Keith Mutch, the sailing club's manager, said raw sewage poured into the harbour again on Saturday - a common occurrence in the past three months. "At 1.30pm down it came," he said, adding that the clubhouse emptied because of the stench. The problem the club faces now is the quality of the water in the harbour. "It is a cesspit and is so fertile now. I have weeds growing on boats in two days - that usually takes two to three months if the boat is not kept properly."

The club now has to dredge the harbour. "It's the only way they can fix it now. First dredge the bed and then pump all the water out of it to allow fresh clean water in to it, because it is stagnant water," Mr Mutch said. Every month, the municipality catches between 20 and 30 tankers dumping their waste in storm drainage manholes. The 27 tankers caught this month have been fined between Dh10,000 (US$2,700) and Dh100,000 each, depending on the severity and the amount of times they have been caught. The municipality has asked the police to help them carry out inspections due to the potential dangers faced by inspectors, Mr Majeed said.

"Last night [Saturday], one of the patrols caught one and when he got out of his car to fine him, the truck driver nearly ran over him. It has got very dangerous and they are using force to avoid being caught." Tankers carrying raw sewage, chemicals and rubbish have to wait up to eight hours in line to dump their load. Instead of waiting their turn at Al Awir Sewage Treatment Plant, some of the drivers empty their tankers in open areas or through storm water networks.

People who see illegal dumping taking place are asked to ring Dubai Municipality on 800 900. eharnan@thenational.ae pmenon@thenational.ae