Blind River Cesspool

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 February 2010

East London’s Blind River has emerged as a polluted cesspool following independent water quality tests conducted by the Saturday Dispatch on the city’s rivers.

The Blind River runs along the Moquini Nature Reserve

Tests on a water sample taken from the river on Wednesday returned a faecal coliform count of 35200 CFU/100ml. This is more than 20 times the figure of 1500 CFU/100ml, which is considered safe for direct human contact. At the time the sample was collected, the mouth of the Blind River was open and water was flowing into the sea at Eastern Beach, a popular swimming spot.

The Ihlanza River, which flows into the sea at Nahoon Beach, returned the next highest reading of 21000 CFU/100ml. Charles Bosman of Blue Sky Environmental said that in addition to faecal coliforms, one could also possibly find nitrogen from nitrogen- based fertilisers, hydrocarbons such as petrol and diesel, and even toxins from household products in these two rivers.

Water samples were taken at three points along the Nahoon River, with the highest count coming from the sample taken above the Abbottsford Causeway of 15000 CFU/100ml. The water quality improved towards the mouth, with Beacon Bay picnic site below Batting Bridge returning a count of 780 CFU/100ml and Playwaters just 30. One water sample was taken from in front of the rowing club from the Buffalo River, which returned a high count of 3520 CFU/100ml.

Mark Lindstrom, president of the East London Boating Association, said rowers on the Buffalo River were aware of just how polluted the river was. “We can often see it and smell it. We used to swim in the river, but none of us would do that now.” Lindstrom said the city had recently hosted the Buffalo Regatta with 1000 competitors taking part. “Imagine the damage it would do if someone had to get sick because of the water quality,” he said. “It needs to be sorted out.”

Two samples were taken from the Gonubie River – one at Tidewaters picnic site and a second closer to the mouth. Both returned counts of 120 and 100 respectively.

Wayne Selkirk of Monitor Laboratories said it should be stressed that faecal coliforms were to be expected in fresh water. “It is the level that is the issue.” Selkirk also said the rain that fell the night before the samples had been taken would have had an effect on the results as it would have flushed out the city’s storm water drains. “The results follow the expected trend and the urban drainage lines will have higher bacteria,” he said

Andrew Stone – Daily Dispatch

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