Efforts to keep uMsunduzi River clean

2010-01-08 00:00

WITH just two weeks left until the Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon starts at Camps Drift, the Dusi-Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) is working flat-out to try and ensure the river is in a reasonable state to paddle on.

The uMsunduzi River is polluted in various ways: solid waste is often dumped or washed into the river, industrial spills are not unusual and sewage often flows into the river, especially during and after heavy rainfalls.

DUCT has several programmes running to prepare the river for the marathon:

• Additional teams have been deployed onto the river to remove solid waste between Camps Drift and the low-level bridge at Sobantu.

• River water samples are being taken from the river to provide information to the municipal sewerage department and the paddlers who are paddling in the river to practise for the main event. Water quality results are available on the DUCT website (www.duct.org.za).

• The frequency with which DUCT is inspecting sewerage lines that are known to be a problem has also increased; such inspections will be taking place on a daily basis in the week leading up to the race to try and ensure that the water in the river is not badly contaminated by sewage.

• Alien vegetation blocking some of the river channels is being removed.

• Grass cutting along sections of the river bank where spectators gather is being carried out.

The water release from Henley Dam for the race will help to dilute any polluted water, but unfortunately we are at the mercy of any rainfall when it comes to how polluted the water may be on the day of the race.

If the Pietermartizburg area experiences a heavy downpour the night before the race we can say without doubt that the water quality will be compromised. Unfortunately the sewer network in Pietermaritzburg turns into a sieve when storm water enters the sewers through illegal connections from roofs and paving or through leaky sewer pipes.

The high flows in the sewers increases the chances of blockages, surcharges and pump failures, all of which result in sewage spilling into the river.

The worst case scenario occurs in extremely high flows when the volume of sewage coming into the Darvill Sewerage Works outstrips the capacity of the plant and effluent is diverted into a holding dam.

If the high flows of sewage into the plant persist and the holding dam fills up, untreated sewage has nowhere to go but back into the river. The solution to the problem of a leaky sewerage network lies in maintenance and investment in infrastructure.

DUCT has partnered up with Umgeni Water, the Water Affairs Department and the uMsunduzi Municipal Sewerage Department to try and ensure the river is in a decent state come race day.

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