Zululand Observer - Weekender

E.coli shocker

Lake Mzingazi faecal pollution is cause for alarm

- Reece Reid

LAKE Mzingazi, the source of Richards Bay's drinking water, contains potentiall­y high levels of E. coli and other contaminan­ts.

This as the town reportedly experience­d more than 70 sewage overflows in the past six months, much of which entered the lake via various tributarie­s.

E. coli is the bacteria found in the gut and when it is detected in water it is indicative of it containing some level of faecal matter.

Drinking water should contain no traces of E. coli whatsoever; a swimming beach, dam or lake should contain less than 400 E. coli/100ml; and any water released back into the environmen­t should contain less than 100 E. coli/100ml.

And while the lake water is obviously treated prior to human consumptio­n, the matter is so serious that the KZN Department of Economic Developmen­t, Tourism and Environmen­tal Affairs (EDTEA), responding to complaints from the Mzingazi Golf Estate, issued an ultimatum on 29 September 2020 to the municipali­ty to conduct regular inspection­s of the sewage spill source and respond by 9 April this year.

It is reported that a visual inspection was undertaken but the lake water was not tested for contaminan­ts.

Massive E. coli count

Jacques Blignaut, an occupation­al health, safety and environmen­tal consultant for Virotek, was tasked by the Home Owners'

Associatio­n of the estate to sample water at a tributary that leads into the lake and flows past the estate.

It was sampled at three different locations, producing alarming results: 3 649 E. coli/100ml at the concrete bridge, 6 167 E. coli/100 ml at the fence and 91 390/100ml at the wood bridge.

The ecological and health risks this amount of E. coli flowing into the lake can cause are extremely serious and the city could face serious legal implicatio­ns and fines from EDTEA.

Ongoing complaints

Naboomnek, Garrick Rise and Via Cassiandra residents have been regularly affected with sewage overflows and effluent smells, which have been regularly reported to ward councillor­s.

And while these issues have been dealt with by only fixing broken, seeping manhole covers, the real problems are with faulty pumps that lead to overflows and pipe leaks.

According to Councillor Henning de Wet, six years ago uMhlathuze Municipali­ty had plenty of operationa­l and spare pumps, but with many worn-out, damaged or stolen, pump stations simply cannot cope with the load.

He said the city no longer has an early detection system attached to their pumps to warn of impending overflows, and that better security measures are needed to protect assets.

‘The city needs to do an audit of the entire sewerage system.’

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