“Accidents happen, pipes block and break; but our precious river water should never be contaminated with excess nutrients and chemicals that threaten our heath and kill the organisms that are there to filter and purify the water”.
So says Lee D’Eathe, champion of the Palmiet River Watch after more than 20 kilometers of river was polluted again because of a maintenance accident at the Blair Road pump station in Pinetown Industrial area on the last day of May 2016.
“Serious pollution occurs regularly; because sewer pump-stations, pipelines, and manholes, have been built along watercourses and are designed to discharge domestic sewage, along with industrial trade effluent, with little margin for safety, directly into rivers and streams whenever the system is overloaded, pump stations fail, sewer-lines break or manholes become blocked”.
“Sewage pollution remains a very serious problem; and even with a huge investment, and officials’ dedicated attention, it is very difficult to keep sewage out of the river“.
Helen Cannon who owns a Bed & Breakfast on the Palmiet River accommodating international guests was pleased that the public had been warned that that Palmiet river water was polluted, as children in our neighbourhood like to play in the river. She went on to say
“This is possibly one of the worst spills we have ever experienced. Up until last week we had a very healthy fish and crab population. There were abundant water birds such as cormorant and kingfishers. Having recently joined Birdlife Africa some guests book in to my b&b expecting to see some of the 133 species of bird we are so proud of; I am horrified to say there is not one fish to be seen this week and all the water-birds have vanished”.
“Businesses in Pinetown and New Germany need to be made aware that these breakdowns are often caused by rags getting into the sewage system. I wish the municipality could spill their sewage elsewhere when they have a breakdown and not use our river”.
Lee said “the public needs to be warned whenever river water is contaminated”; and asked; “how many more sewage spills, blockages and breakages will it take to dispel any conclusion, other than urgent attention is required to reduce the risk and stop the devastating effect this has on the environment?”
Ashley Nevill, a riverside resident in Cowies Hill said; “the fish, insects and reptiles that were there the week before are gone. We have Reference Numbers Etc. and nothing happens, this is very disheartening… what is the point, we are getting nowhere; and Lee is trying so hard and running up against a brick wall”.
“The risk increases where the sewer infrastructure is particularly old, and; blockages occur from improper use by the public. Pipes are vandalized and damaged by scrap metal thieves; and the sewage also contains industrial waste from factories, which discharges, along with domestic sewage, directly into the river when sewer-pipeline and sewer pump-station blockages and failures occur”.
“One should not treat sewage pollution lightly. Everything flushed down toilets, kitchen and bathroom, ends up in the river water, including high levels of nutrients, E. coli and other pathogens, toxins, pesticides, detergents, oils, solvents, chemicals, hormones, medication, cosmetics, plastics and rags: causing known and unknown, short and long-term damage, throughout the environment, and beyond the catchment”.
Cathy Sutherland, a researcher from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and core team member of the Palmiet River Rehabilitation project, working closely with an informal settlement on the Palmiet River, said,
“This was unacceptable, many people are dependent on the Palmiet River for bathing, washing of clothes, cultural practices and fishing. Children in the settlement swim and play in this river and this has a direct impact on their health”.
Lee pointed out that industry does not always comply with Sewage Disposal By-laws; which allows diluted mineral and vegetable oils, greases and waxes; sulfur, chlorine and Fluoride compounds, Phenol’s, Cyanides; Solids, Anionic surfactants; and metal compounds : Copper, Nickel, Zinc, Iron, Boron, Selenium, Manganese, Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Chrome, Arsenic, Titanium and Cobalt to be disposed of in the sewer system”.
Anyone interested in assessing the environmental impacts throughout the Palmiet River catchment to better manage peak flows, maintain low flow and improve water quality should contact please contact Lee D’Eathe ~ The Palmiet River Watch. Cell: 0834615964 Phone: 0312623753 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org