A civil organisation concerned with water quality, Adopt-A-River, says it has identified rolling blackouts as a factor that could impair the clearance of high E.coli levels on Durban beaches.
Adopt-A-River began testing water quality in Durban rivers following the April floods.
E.coli was detected in the water after several pump stations and water treatment sites were damaged by the floods. Several beaches in Durban were closed as a result.
The sewerage spillage flowing into the nearby Ohlanga River is accompanied by an unbearable stench. It’s one of the identified sources of the high E.coli levels in the Umhlanga beach. E.coli in water is an indication of sewage contamination.
The Umhlanga beach has been closed to swimmers for the past two months as a result.
Several pump stations and water treatment stations in eThekwini were left damaged after the floods in April
Adopt-A-River has been at the forefront in the detection of E.coli levels on Durban beaches and rivers.
“We started our water sampling at the beginning of this year. It was after a really high rain incident over the new year period. It triggered further questioning because we’ve got a team based at the Umngeni River, and it suddenly turned black. So we wanted to investigate further up how and where this may have been coming from, and out of that sampling we then were able to work with laboratories and include other sites for investigation,” explains Director of Adopt-A-River, Janet Simpkins.
The organisation says heavy rains, poor infrastructure, vandalism and rolling blackouts are some of the contributing factors.
“Because a pump station needs electricity, it needs power, if there isn’t a backup power source unfortunately it still receives waste and it has to go somewhere. So if it’s not being pumped out, then it’s going to overflow. So we have seen load shedding have a role in increased E.coli readings in our waters,” continues Simpkins.
Some Durban residents say this has spoilt their love for the ocean.
“I like the ocean, but I don’t like swimming in it. But it’s like everything else if it smells or it’s got a bug in it. Anyone who comes here could get it. People put their hands in the water. We walk around here and sit here. It may get into us,” comments Durban resident Robert Suberg.
The eThekwini Municipality says it’s fast-tracking the repairs at all damaged pump and water treatment stations.