x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tide of filth costs club its licence

Municipality searches for who is dumping effluent - which is washing up on a public beach in Dubai - into the drainage system.

Foaming effluent pollutes the waters at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club.
Foaming effluent pollutes the waters at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club.

DUBAI // Dubai's internationally renowned sailing club has lost its licence to teach and had its latest regatta spoiled after illegally dumped sewage flooded its private harbour. The Dubai Offshore Sailing Club lost its Royal Yachting Association (RYA) accreditation yesterday after effluent dumped into a storm drain nearby flowed into the waters around the club, leaving a stench. Keith Mutch, the club's manager, said the dumping ruined the opening regatta of the season on Friday and threatened the reputation of the club.

"There were more than 200 people here and I got complaints all day about the stench," he said. "It smelt of raw sewage. In the middle of the afternoon it flowed out of the storm water drain at the bottom of the pier. "The water had a big dark brown slick of water in it that smelt very bad." The waste has also now washed onto a nearby public beach and the water has made several people sick. They have complained of skin rashes, ear infections and diarrhoea.

"One member who used to swim here all the time has stopped because he has got several ear infections from the contaminated water," said Mr Mutch. The problem has blighted the coast for three months but has dramatically increased this week, said Mr Mutch. "It pours in every day. We do not know where it originating from but it is seriously affecting the club and its members." One of the members, who did not wish to be named, said: "It is only a matter of time before people get cholera or typhoid from the water. I can't risk my daughter getting anything like that. People using the beach next to the club have no idea."

Those on the public beach were equally upset. "I have just taken a swim," said Claudia Kemfert from Germany. "I never expected to see something like raw sewage in the water. The quality of the beaches has deteriorated since I got here two years ago but this is horrible." Ahmed Rashid decided against bathing with his seven-year-old son. "I don't believe it," he said, peering at the dark brown slick. "I am not going to get into the water. Imagine what my son could catch." He then left.

Abdul Majeed, director of Dubai Municipality's drainage and irrigation network, said he was ordering more spot checks to catch the dumpers, but the effort was being hampered by the complexity of the problem. Around 7,000 manholes feed into Dubai's storm drainage system, with water exiting from four points along the coastline. Haulers dump their load into the system to avoid waiting in long lines at the city's sewage treatment facilities.

"We try to catch them but they do it at 3am or 4am - we do not have full teams to cover night shifts," Mr Majeed said. The Dubai Offshore Sailing Club has more than 600 members, with more than 200 on the waiting list. Independent tests on the pollution have been carried out by the club and the results are now in the hands of the municipality. The club says it hopes to replace polluted sand that has turned a dark brown. It must also send clean water samples to the RYA's headquarters in the UK before it regains its certificate to teach.

However, Mr Mutch said the efforts could prove fruitless: "It's a catch-22 situation for us. I want to replace the sand now but we do not know when the sewage will be stopped." eharnan@thenational.ae