Swim­ming at Mil­ner­ton La­goon de­spite warn­ings

Res­i­dents say signs do not speak of spe­cific dan­gers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KOWTHAR SOLOMONS

THE MIL­NER­TON La­goon, in­fested with e coli, is still be­ing used for swim­ming, de­spite warn­ing signs, and the City of Cape Town has con­firmed the bac­te­ria has made its way to the La­goon Beach.

Heavy rains last weekend not only caused the la­goon to de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther, but have now caused con­cern for those swim­ming at the nearby beach.

Res­i­dents along the la­goon’s banks con­firmed that swimmers could still reg­u­larly be seen. A res­i­dent, who asked not to be named, said there were warn­ing fly­ers on the beach and around the la­goon, but they were ob­scured by trees or posted on bins and were hardly vis­i­ble.

“The sign just says the wa­ter is pol­luted and to stay out. It doesn’t tell us what’s in the wa­ter and peo­ple just ig­nore it. If they want to keep peo­ple out of the wa­ter they need to say what’s in it. The signs need to be huge boards and not just fly­ers.”

Stan­ley Bol­nik, chair­man of the Mil­ner­ton Cen­tral Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, said peo­ple swam in the la­goon re­gard­less of warn­ing signs posted, even be­fore the E coli out­break.

“Peo­ple have al­ways used the la­goon for swim­ming or other re­cre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties, whether there are signs or not, so it is a par­tic­u­larly hard prob­lem to ad­dress. For now, our best so­lu­tion is to clean the la­goon as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The la­goon was de­clared off lim­its this month af­ter a sewage pipe col­lapsed dur­ing con­struc­tion of the last sec­tion of a new pipe­line when a stormwa­ter canal flooded the site.

This washed sand into the pipe and into the Koe­berg pump sta­tion, which couldn’t pump at full ca­pac­ity lead­ing to the flood­ing and spillage.

Coun­cil­lor Ernest Son­nen­berg, mayoral com­mit­tee mem­ber for util­i­ties ser­vices, said the la­goon had been treated with en­zymes and showed some im­prove­ment be­fore last weekend’s tor­ren­tial rain.

“The E coli lev­els are still high in Diep River and also in the la­goon mouth. The wa­ter qual­ity had shown some im­prove­ment last week be­fore the weekend rain, but has de­te­ri­o­rated af­ter the rain­fall.

“Sea wa­ter qual­ity has shown some im­prove­ment at both Mil­ner­ton Light­house and near the la­goon mouth. En­te­ro­cocci counts are down for both ar­eas are low, but E coli counts are a con­cern and must come down be­fore any swim­ming is al­lowed.” En­te­ro­cocci are bac­te­ria which in­fect the uri­nary tract and the lin­ing of the heart, and cause di­ges­tive disease and menin­gi­tis.

Son­nen­berg said peo­ple have been warned not to swim in the la­goon.

“At Mil­ner­ton La­goon, there is per­ma­nent sig­nage up pro- hi­bit­ing swim­ming. The city has erected tem­po­rary signs around the ar­eas fur­ther af­fected by the re­cent sewage spill and has in­formed the pub­lic through the me­dia. Nor­mally it is fine for ca­noeists to pad­dle in the area as they don’t fully im­merse them­selves in the wa­ter, but cur­rently this too is pro­hib­ited.”

When the Weekend Ar­gus vis­ited the beach, sev­eral warn­ing signs were posted on bins around the beach and la­goon but the signs made no men­tion of the E coli or other pol­lu­tants.

Epi­demi­ol­o­gist Jo Barnes said the city should look at im­prov­ing its warn­ing signs and in­clude specifics.

“The signs on the bins may not be enough to keep peo­ple from swim­ming even if the city feels the signs meet the min­i­mum re­quire­ments. Peo­ple will still use the la­goon be­cause they do not un­der­stand the dan­gers.”

kowthar.solomons@inl.co.za

PIC­TURES: LEON LESTRADE

IN­FECTED: The City of Cape Town con­firmed the in­fec­tion of La­goon Beach in Mil­ner­ton with E coli as wa­ter from the la­goon fil­tered into the sea. De­spite warn­ings posted on the beach, peo­ple still swim in the beach’s waters.

KEEP OUT: A warn­ing sign by the City of Cape Town at the Mil­ner­ton La­goon. The la­goon was flooded with E coli af­ter a pipe col­lapsed and, de­spite the health warn­ing, is still be­ing used by swimmers

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