The per­ils lurk­ing in Mil­ner­ton La­goon

Wa­ter qual­ity has de­creased steadily, ac­cord­ing to re­port

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - PETER LUHANGA

IF YOU pad­dle on the Mil­ner­ton La­goon, don’t splash your ca­noe­ing com­pan­ions. And if you tip over, make sure you keep your mouth closed.

That’s the ad­vice for kayak­ers who, if they take a dip in the la­goon, run the risk of con­tract­ing any­thing from gas­troin­testi­nal ill­nesses to ear, nose and throat in­fec­tions.

The wa­ter qual­ity of the la­goon, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est In­land and Coastal Wa­ter Qual­ity Re­port re­leased by the city, has de­creased steadily over the past three years. And, in the year to June this year, it showed a lowly 35 per­cent com­pli­ance rate for re­cre­ational use – down from 65 per­cent be­tween July 2011 and June 2012.

Ca­noeist Marco Zumpt, who is af­fil­i­ated to the Mil­ner­ton Ca­noe Club ( MCC), said al­though he had never con­tracted any ill­ness as a re­sult of ca­noe­ing on the la­goon, he knew of fel­low ca­noeists who had con­tracted di­ar­rhoea.

“On oc­ca­sion, they dump a whole lot of sewage which you can ac­tu­ally smell. You can see it in the wildlife too. Alien corals grow­ing are prov­ing to be a prob­lem,” Zumpt said.

Ca­noe Club coach Gre­gory van Heer­den, who has ca­noed on the la­goon since 1994, con­firmed the con­cerns: “At the mo­ment we have got Aus­tralian coral worm.”

Aus­tralian coral worm thrives in nu­tri­ent-rich wa­ter.

How­ever, Van Heer­den con­ceded that the la­goon was a dif­fi­cult stretch of wa­ter to main­tain, as it was fed by the Diep River, which runs through Swart­land farm­land where it is con­tam­i­nated by fer­tilis­ers, her­bi­cides and an­i­mal fae­ces. It then runs past the Doorn­bach in­for­mal set­tle­ment next to Du Noon, where it is fur­ther con­tam­i­nated by hu­man waste.

As a re­sult, Van Heer­den said he made sure never to fall out of his ca­noe. He added that he had no­ticed changes to the la­goon’s ecosys­tem. “The sand used to be clean, there were lots of birds and fish, which is not the case now.”

About seven peo­ple had left the club to prac­tise their sport on cleaner waters.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Andy Birkinshaw, a long-time Ta­ble View res­i­dent, said sub­ur­ban growth con­trib­uted to de­te­ri­o­rat­ing wa­ter qual­ity as stormwa­ter flowed into the la­goon, in­clud­ing from Mon­tague Gar­dens in­dus­trial area.

He said he had re­ceived com­plaints from ca­noeists that any cut they got while pad­dling be­came in­fected. Dogs which swam in the la­goon also of­ten ended up at the vet.

The mayoral com­mit­tee mem­ber for roads, trans­port and stormwa­ter, Brett Her­ron ,agreed that stormwa­ter from sur­round­ing sub­urbs and from Doorn­bach neg­a­tively af­fected wa­ter qual­ity.

The Pots­dam Waste­water Treat­ment Works also dis­charged treated ef­flu­ent into the river flow­ing into the la­goon, but “the qual­ity of this ef­flu­ent is gen­er­ally good”, he said, adding that wa­ter qual­ity of­ten dropped dur­ing win­ter when heavy rains washed pol­lu­tants from roads and drive­ways, and also flushed de­bris out of drains.

Good news from the re­port was that wa­ter qual­ity was sta­ble or had im­proved at other pop­u­lar re­cre­ational wa­ter bod­ies around the city, in­clud­ing at Zand­vlei in Muizen­berg, Zeeko­evlei in Grassy Park, and the Ri­etvlei in Ta­ble View.

Zand­vlei had a 94 per­cent com­pli­ance rate (up from 88 per­cent in 2011), while Zeeko­evlei was more or less sta­ble at 88 per­cent (from 91 per­cent in 2011), and Ri­etvlei had a 92 per­cent com­pli­ance rate (same as for 2011). For the pe­riod Jan­uary to De­cem­ber last year, Ri­etvlei was 100 per­cent com­pli­ant.

Another no­table in­land wa­ter sys­tem, over which a bat­tle against im­pend­ing de­vel­op­ment is be­ing fought, was the Princessvlei, which had a com­pli­ance rate of 50 per­cent – down from 72 per­cent in 2011.

The worst wa­ter sys­tem was the Soet River, which flows from the Hot­ten­tots Hol­land through the Lwan­dle and Nozamo in­for­mal set­tle­ments, then into the sea at Strand.

It had a 23 per­cent com­pli­ance rate, lower than the Disa River flow­ing through Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, which had a 56 per­cent com­pli­ance rate.

Fur­ther, the Big and Lit­tle Lo­tus Canals, and the Diep River and Canals had com­pli­ance rates of 26 per­cent and 45 per­cent re­spec­tively. They both flow into recog­nised re­cre­ational ar­eas, with the Diep River flow­ing into Ri­etvlei and the Mil­ner­ton La­goon, while the Big and Lit­tle Lo­tus canals flow into Zeeko­evlei.

Over­all, how­ever, the longterm re­sults for ecosys­tem health, mea­sured from a low point in 2008, when the 27 mea­sured sys­tems had an av­er­age 50 per­cent com­pli­ance, have im­proved to lev­els around 60 per­cent.

Her­ron urged res­i­dents and visi­tors to help pre­vent wa­ter pol­lu­tion.

“Even seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant ac­tiv­i­ties like wash­ing out your refuse bin, wash­ing your car in the drive­way, hos­ing your pa­tio and drive­way, us­ing pes­ti­cides, wash­ing tools and paint­brushes and not pick­ing up your dog waste, ac­tu­ally se­ri­ously im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Th­ese pol­lu­tants are washed into the stormwa­ter sys­tem, and from there into rivers, wet­lands and on to beaches,” he warned. – West Cape News


AT RISK: Ca­noeists who get their ex­er­cise on the Mil­ner­ton La­goon past Wood­bridge Is­land run the risk of get­ting sick if they swal­low wa­ter from the la­goon.

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