Sewage is washed up again on Dubai beach

Officials say illegal dumping at sea may be to blame as thick, black waste coats the shoreline near the sailing club.

Dubai, 14th June 2009.  A polluted beach, at the Jumeirah open beach, near to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)  Editor's Note; Nour S reports.  *** Local Caption ***  JB06-Pbeach.jpg

DUBAI // With at least three months to go before a new treatment plant takes the pressure off Dubai's overburdened facilities, thick, black sewage has again begun washing up at a beach in the Jumeirah area. The beach, next to Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, was deserted yesterday as tracks of sewage tinged the shoreline and covered the water at least 30 metres out to sea.

"It started last year around September," said a member of the staff at the club, adding that over time it had merged with the red tide and other types of waste. "Now it is not as bad, but tests are still showing positive for sewage. "The level of E.coli has reduced considerably since we started testing the water last year, but it is still present," he added. A Dubai Municipality official said it was unaware of any sewage or waste in the water and had received no complaints from the public. He also stated that the Emirate's beaches were regularly monitored by municipality officials.

"Until we can tell what it is and where it comes from, we cannot do anything," he said. He added that inspectors would visit today to conduct tests. "It is a possibility that it is a result of illegal dumping of sewage and waste, or it could come from waste in the sea mixed in with the tide moving it around," he said. According to the sailing club staff member, the sewage has resulted in a significant loss of business, especially between September and January, when it was forced to cancel all sailing lessons and dinghy racing.

When the problem was first reported in September, the municipality responded by attempting to catch those responsible. A major issue is Dubai's inadequate sewage treatment facilities. Currently just one plant, at Al Aweer, caters for the entire emirate. Rather than wait for access to it, some tankers have taken to dumping their waste illegally at sea. A new plant is under construction in Jebel Ali, but is not scheduled to be operational until September.

On the beach next to the area hit by the waste, the half-dozen kite-surfers seemed unconcerned about swimming so close to the sewage. One said the waste would not stop him practising his sport. "The only thing it has done is stop my wife and kids coming down," he said. Another beach along, Christopher Smith, 32, who lives in Dubai and works in construction, said he had yet to see the sewage but had heard about affected areas.

"I refuse to go to those beaches which are reported to have sewage and waste," he said. "I haven't been to those beaches for about a year ."