Beware city’s highly toxic river where ‘only the brave’ use the water for washing

2012-05-17 00:00

BEWARE the Baynespruit that runs through Eastwood and Sobantu, in the east of the capital. Its water is not fit to drink or for agricultural irrigation, especially on fresh produce.

This is the view of microbiology Professor Stefan Schmidt of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who spoke to The Witness after conducting tests on the river’s water.

“We detected pathogens like salmonella, which can cause severe diarrhoea and could be very dangerous to sick, old people and pregnant women,” he warned.

“I would not even recommend that children swim in that river,” said Schmidt.

Steve Terry of Umgeni Water’s water quality department confirmed that the river was “highly toxic”.

In an e-mail sent to various people dealing with the river on May 9 he wrote that it could affect people and animals coming into contact with it.

“This would render use of the river for agriculture completely useless, and indeed dangerous,” he wrote.

Overflowing sewers close to the river’s banks, one of which carries chemical waste from a factory, are the source of the pollution.

The chemical is leaking from a municipal sewer pipe through which the company was apparently given permission by the municipality to dispose of their chemicals. However, the pipe is now worn out and its contents are leaking into the river.

Ronald Clancy, general manager of the chemical company, Dystar Boehme Africa, said the factory was working closely with the municipality to sort out the issue. He would not comment further.

Brenden Sivparsad, head of Msunduzi’s water and sanitation department, said the pipeline was being monitored by camera to determine exactly where the leak was. He added that funding of R800 000 has been allocated for the repair once the source was confirmed.

Ivy Terry, a member of the Eastwood ward committee said the leak turned the water white, and that they feared the pollution could affect the ecosystem and people using the water downstream.

Toxic fumes from the river were causing breathing problems and irritation in people’s eyes and noses.

Dennis Mncwabe, a farmer in Sobantu said he and other riverside farmers have had to build dams and source water away from the river because of the pollution.

“We stopped using this river for farming a long time ago because it is so polluted,” he said.

“Only the brave use it for washing,” he said.

Last week Msunduzi municipality spokesman Brian Zuma said the leak had been investigated and the leaking chemical was found to be harmless.

Attempts to contact Zuma in the light of Schmidt’s test results yesterday, were unsuccessful.

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