Renewed Duzi health fears

2008-01-08 00:00

THE South African under 23 and junior canoe squads were pulled off the Umsundusi River by their coach just three minutes into a training session yesterday after a deluge of rubbish washed through their training area opposite Maritzburg College.

A fuming Dusi Canoe Club member phoned The Witness, saying he has never seen so much rubbish in the river.

Umgeni Water spokesman Shami Harichunder said the rubbish was washed down by rain in the last two days.

“When it rains, pollutants wash down the river from catchment areas,” he said.

Hansa Powerade Dusi organising committee spokesman Ray de Vries said the SA coach could not risk the health of his team. Dead animals, bottles, buckets and household waste were included in the rubbish flowing down the river.

He added that he has received e-mails from international entrants inquiring about the water contamination following recent extensive media coverage.

“International athletes have been inquiring about necessary inoculations to take before coming to South Africa,” he said.

“We have to be totally transparent about this. The municipality, together with the relevant authorities, needs to be part of a plan of action after this year’s race, if we are to host the Dusi again next year,” he said.

Random water sampling of the river will continue right up until the start of the Dusi Canoe Marathon, following recent extremely high levels of E.coli contamination, caused by human waste.

Harichunder said water samples were taken yesterday and the frequency of sampling will be increased in areas like Camps Drift, where the race starts. Water quality results are expected today.

“An indication of what will come through will be from catchment areas, particularly Edendale,” Harichunder said.

He said the Msunduzi Municipality has acted on information relayed to it concerning tests that have already been carried out.

However, ANC MPL Zibuse Mlaba said no health warnings have been received by people living along the river, nor were they informed that the water was contaminated.

Mlaba said they were alerted by media reports.

“Communitieses use the water for drinking, cooking, washing and for their animals — especially in areas where there is no proper water and sanitation facilities,” he said.

KZN Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said there have been no reports of patients admitted to hospitals with illnesses caused by E.coli contamination.

Lin Gravelet-Blondin from the Water Affairs and Forestry Department said yesterday that drinking the water would have a much swifter effect on a person than secondary contact like swimming or paddling.

He confirmed that samples are being taken on a continual basis and that results are changing “day by day”, but getting worse when it rains and sewers are flooded.

Regarding the fluctuating E.coli levels, Gravelet-Blondin explained that the bacteria are killed off by the sun.

The Dusi marathon is set for January 17, 18 and 19.

nerissag@witness.co.za

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