Plans to get rid of E. coli

2014-03-28 00:00

THE Msunduzi Municipality, Umgeni Water and Department of Water Affairs are committed to working together with other organisations to ensure the water quality in the Duzi and other rivers improve.

The municipality has already embarked on a process where faulty sewer pumps have been upgraded.

The Department of Water Affairs, too, has already committed to plans to address the ageing infrastructure and stormwater infiltration into the sewer reticulation system, which will in turn improve the water quality in the rivers. Umgeni Water continues to monitor river water quality weekly through samples that are taken from 18 points in the Msunduzi River in the Pietermaritzburg area and education awareness programmes.

The three entities were responding to an article in yesterday’s Witness that revealed shocking levels of E. coli in the Duzi River.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Madeleine Plaatjies said keeping E. coli at acceptable and compliant levels was something the municipality did not take lightly.

“The current response rate for any reported blockage is in excess of 80% for the last 12 months. In addition, four sewer pump stations, which have been prone to failure, have now been upgraded. This has increased the reliability and efficiency of the municipal systems,” said Plaatjies.

Additional plans included replacing defective, redundant and troublesome sewer pipes.

“This will effectively replace approximately 14 km of sewer pipe in the Scottsville and Northdale areas over the next 12 months. The installation of vital flow-monitoring equipment as part of the strategy to monitor and reduce storm water ingress into sewer systems will be completed by June 2014,” said Plaatjies.

She said all these technical interventions needed to be augmented with partnerships with various stakeholders.

“Our intention therefore is to formalise a strategic partnership with Duct in the upcoming months, whose operational assistance needs to be acknowledged,” said Plaatjies.

The Department of Water Affairs regional head Ashley Starkey said surface water quality was affected by many things, including sediment and erosion, the diffuse discharges from irrigated farmland (both fertilisers and salinity through leaching), domestic and urban runoff, industrial waste, and sewage discharges.

Starkey said the department had already conducted surveys and plans have been developed to address the aging infrastructure and stormwater infiltration into the sewer reticulation system, which will in turn improve the water quality in the rivers. These plans will be implemented over the next few years by the Msunduzi Municipality, he said.

Starkey said due to the urban surrounds of Pietermaritzburg rivers, the major source of poor water quality was sewage discharges.

“This is due to ageing infrastructure, stormwater infiltration into the sewer reticulation system, misuse of the sewer reticulation system, addition of foreign objects and solid waste into the system causing sewer blockages,” said Starkey.

He said Umgeni Water tested water quality on a weekly basis to establish the amount of E. coli (a bacterium that indicates faecal contamination) present.

Shami Harichunder, Umgeni Water corporate stakeholder manager, added that the water tests were done at 18 points on the river in Pietermaritzburg.

The data from the tests was also specifically requested by the Msunduzi Municipality to assist it in identifying where faecal contamination was occurring.

He confirmed that the Department of Water Affairs, Msunduzi Municipality, Duct and Umgeni Water were working closely together to formulate solutions that would ultimately improve the water quality. “Improved catchment management, upgrading of sewers and sewage treatment facilities, better detection and response to sewer problems are just some of the issues receiving attention,” said Harichunder.

He said a key element of the joint initiative centred around education. He said much work had already been done involving communities along the banks of the Msunduzi River in river clean-up campaigns. “A longer-term initiative involves providing information on the importance of preventing river pollution, the impact of river pollution and the benefits that can be derived from having clean rivers and streams. The education initiative will continue well into the future as Umgeni Water sees this as one of the most effective means of improving the health and state of water as a natural resource,” said Harichunder.

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