Swimming at Milnerton Lagoon despite warnings
Residents say signs do not speak of specific dangers
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.”
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