Contingency plans in place if reports of Touw River sewage spill are confirmed – SANParks

2018-07-27 22:02

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Following concerns of a potential sewage spill into the Touw River along the Garden Route in the Western Cape, South African National Parks (SANParks) has said contingency plans are in place should the spill be confirmed.

According to a SANParks statement, Jonathan Britton, marine ranger in the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park, has been in contact with concerned residents following claims of a sewage spill that was reported on July 10.

Additionally, SANParks has also contacted the George municipality to ensure that the necessary actions were implemented to restore sewage pumps. It also went on a site visit to inspect the area of concern and conducted tests and collected samples for further testing.

SANParks added that it monitors the water quality of the Touw River at five different sites on a monthly basis and that the tests for July, conducted on the same day as the alleged spill, did not reflect any concerns.

Additional tests conducted following the alleged spill will be for E.coli, orthophosphates and ammonia, which is typically an indication of detergents.

"If the results for E.coli and for orthophosphates and ammonia are very high then we have contingency plans in place that will be activated with the George and Eden district municipalities to mitigate public health concerns," said SANParks.

Specialised laboratory work

"SANParks Scientific Services has a long-term water monitoring project in place looking at specific physical properties. This project was initiated in 1991 [and] gives us a very good baseline of information and trends of water quality in the Touw estuary against which to interpret water quality test results," SANParks added.

Five dead fish were also collected, but SANParks said to determine the exact cause of death took a lot of trial and error and very specialised laboratory work to try and pinpoint exactly what to test for.

"To make it more difficult such facilities to do this kind of work are not available locally, samples must be sent to Onderstepoort, Pretoria.

"The Touw River is a dynamic ecological system and the cycle of life and death is very much part of the system – fish and birds do not live forever.

"One has to take a pragmatic approach at times as we do not always know everything: If there were hundreds of dead fish them there would be real cause for concern and more intense investigative actions taken."

SANParks said the water quality and the dissolved oxygen levels were a key indicator as very low levels can be detrimental to fish.

"The results of the test conducted do not indicate low levels, if the levels were very low one would expect to find a wide variety and lots of dead fish.

"Should there be any significant and confirmed public health concerns in the Touw River the Garden National Park Management Plan has specific management interventions that will be activated in partnership with the local authorities," SANParks concluded.

Read more on:    sanparks  |  george  |  water

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