Scene Four: Meeting with Storm Water Management

Backstory:  Because our project deals with the Black River, it is important for us to gain an understanding of some of the problems that occur in it.  The water hyacinth is an invasive plant that the City of Cape Town spends a lot of money on its removal each year.  Peter Koen was referred to us as a contact in removing the water hyacinth from the Black River.

Cast of Characters:   Our meeting was with Peter Koen who works in the Roads & Stormwater Branch. Part of his job deals with removing the invasive water hyacinth from bodies of water, including the Black River.


  • How much money do you spend getting together a team together?  How many times a year?
  • How much is the disposal?
  • Where do the removed hyacinths go? Is there any compost?  Do they get left behind sometimes?
  • Do you have any ideas for non-landfill destination of the water hyacinth?
  • Is there a way to do a one-time removal?  What is the cost of this?
  • Does this employment come locally?
  • What tonnage is removed each year?  Do you know specifically the tonnage for TRUP?

Water hyacinth in the Black River

Caitlin and Sarah were the two team members meeting with Peter Koen.  After some confusion, we were able to find the Media Centre and get to the third floor to meet with Peter.  Our meeting started by us explaining a little bit about our project, to which he asked what the water hyacinth had to do with our pathway.  We said that we were looking at ways to use the water hyacinth to create jobs and potential alternatives to sending them to a landfill.

From this meeting, we gained much information which is described below:

  • Hyacinth environment
    • Seeds will spread easily
    • Like nutrients in the water – Black River’s pollution allows it to grow
    • Takes oxygen from environment making it hard for other species to survive
  • Hyacinth removal from the Black River
    • R600,00 per year
      • This covers the machinery and manpower
      • Biomass – needs to be calculated
    • The city cleans because the river would flood without
    • Clean from Summer to Winter
    • Waste goes straight to the landfill to avoid contamination of storm water system
    • Tried herbicide but seeds continue to grow
    • About 80% is water, not worried about landfill space because of this
  • Potential uses
    • Paper – group of individuals used it to make paper, does not take a lot of the hyacinth waste
    • Compost – not advised in case a seed goes to a water source, could be used very far from water
    • Has been used to feed pigs on a farm area
  • Employment
    • Alexandra Hospital – would employ if they expressed an interest
    • Around Black River – not many people so do not employ locally
    • Generally would employ locally like in Langa
  • Black River pollution
    • Athlone Treatment Plant and Borcherds Quarry Treatment Plant go into river, biggest source of pollution
    • Langa grey and black water drain into river
    • Industrial waste

We concluded our meeting with Peter saying he had some materials that he would e-mail us and would contact us further if he finds anything else relevant.

Additional water hyacinth in the Black River

Before this meeting, we had been told that Peter was relatively quiet.  We were pleasantly surprised that he had a lot of information for us and that he was willing to give any more that he comes across.  Learning about the Treatment Plants dumping in the river was new for us and it was disheartening to learn that Peter did not think river restoration was possible.  This was largely due to the extent of pollution in the river, especially from the treatment plants. He gave us a lot of useful information but he also did not seem keen on some of the ideas for other uses of the hyacinth, such as composting.  The biggest problem is containing the issue since any other option other than carefully monitored transport to the landfill could potentially lead to spreading the issue.

Future plans:

  • Bring this information to our weekly, Monday meeting and discuss what was found
  • Look into the Treatment Plants that feed into the river
  • Research other potential uses for the water hyacinth