Durban rivers ‘critical’

2014-08-11 00:00

THE city has issued an urgent public health alert warning the public against any form of contact with a river that runs through Umhlanga.

Shockingly, it also revealed that up to 30% of the city’s river system is in a “critical” state as it battles to manage the city sewers which have had an astronomical increase in demand over the last decade.

In an urgent statement released yesterday the city said: “The public is warned not to drink river water, swim or fish along the Ohlanga River and Ohlanga Estuary until further notice.”

At least six rivers in the city are in a critical state.

City water quality official Chris Fennemore warned residents to be vigilant despite the sewage leak into the Ohlanga River having been resolved over the weekend.

“No time frame can be given as to when it will be clear. For instance, if there was a sudden flood it could be cleared in a matter of seconds.

“Otherwise it can take weeks and even months,” said Fennemore.

He said the contamination was the result of a blockage in the sewer network further upstream. The river runs through Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu, Verulam and past the Phoenix industrial estate.

The most recent Unicity River Index, which showed eThekwini’s river quality data for May, revealed that parts of major rivers that ran through Kloof, Pinetown, Umbilo, Tongaat and Amanzintoti were “critical”.

“If a river is deemed critical it is generally unacceptable for bathing but water life would under certain circumstances survive,” said Fennemore.

The sewage leak into the Umhlanga Nature Reserve has residents turning up their noses at the foul odour, while dead fish killed by the pollution are surfacing.

The Umhlanga Urban Improvement Precinct’s project leader Brian Wright said the sewage contamination was dangerous for the lagoon ecosystem.

He said residents had reported seeing dead fish floating in the lagoon.

“The pungent raw sewage can be smelt from far off,” said Wright.

Umhlanga ward councillor Heinz de Boer said this was “not the first time” there had been a leak in recent weeks.

“The eThekwini Water Department takes days, sometimes weeks, to fix these problems. Last week a sewage pump station in Mount Edgecombe leaked into the pond for about five days, and there was also a sewage leak at Riverhorse Valley,” said De Boer.

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