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Threat of water-borne diseases keeps Durban beaches closed

The eThekwini Municipality has said that Durban beaches are to remain closed as the threat of water-borne diseases and E coli bacteria have reached alarming levels following last month’s floods.

DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality has said that Durban beaches are to remain closed as the threat of water-borne diseases and E coli bacteria have reached alarming levels following last month’s floods.

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said water tests were being carried out daily, and people would be informed when the levels of E coli bacteria drop.

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E coli may be found in water sources that have been contaminated with faeces from infected humans or animals, and can cause water-borne disease (ie cholera, typhoid, amebiasis, hepatitis and gastroenteritis).

“We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience, but we must all be mindful that it is in the interest of safety, and our city is doing everything in its power to ensure that the situation returns to normal with speed,” he said.

Residents can still, however, enjoy other activities along the beachfront that don’t need contact with sea water, he said.

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Janet Simpkins, the founder and director of Adopt-A-River, said residents should not just stay away from the beaches, but refrain from swimming and drinking from rivers.

The organisation said E coli levels and sewer spillages had been a concern before the floods hit, but the recent devastation had heightened bacteria levels.

“For months we have raised the alarm over the health of the uMngeni River and other waterways that flow into the ocean. We are working on a 12-week sampling and testing cycle with Talbot Laboratories for E coli. We will be running more tests soon, but with the amount of infrastructure damage we don’t expect to see any positive changes or clearance of the bacteria any time soon,” she said.

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Last week The Mercury reported that the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) said most water resources (rivers) in eThekwini District had been found to have a significantly high percentage of water contaminants (mainly E coli) due to raw sewage spillages owing to infrastructure damage at water treatment works.

EThekwini deputy mayor Philani Mavundla said last week that 80% of the city’s sewerage infrastructure had been damaged by the floods.

One of the more serious issues is at the eThekwini Western Waste Waterworks, where the entire lower portion of the waterworks was washed away, while the roads servicing the plant had been destroyed in four locations.

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“This has allowed raw sewage to be pumped freely into the Umbilo River, making it a toxic cesspool. A bacterial overload will occur and will lead to consequences such as an algae bloom, with the resultant oxygen starvation to all living organisms in the river course,” said eThekwini DA councillor Melanie Brauteseth.

Yesterday, the DA called on the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, to intervene.

THE MERCURY

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