Coast KZN

03 Dec 2014

Dead fish raise alarm over rivers

Elana Geist and Jacqueline Herbst (North Coast Courier)


Horrible stench coming from major rivers.

Black, smelly water and dead fish washed up on the banks of two major North Coast rivers have raised major pollution concerns.

In the first instance, residents and business people around the Umvoti River mouth were on high alert when they noticed the water flowing into the sea was black and smelt of sulphur.

Ilembe district municipality is reported to have laid the blame at the door of paper manufacturer Sappi Gledhow.

However Sappi general manager Bev Sukhdeo denied emphatically that his factory was to blame.

“We can state unequivocally that there has not been any toxic ‘spill of effluent’ from the Sappi Stanger mill into the Umvoti River.”

He said the mill discharges treated effluent into the Ntshaweni River as per the mill’s water use licence, issued by the department of water and sanitation.

The Ntshaweni River then joins the Umvoti River further downstream. Sappi Stanger’s environmental management staff monitor the condition of the river continually, he said.

Sukdeo said the river bed appears dark in winter when the flow in the Umvoti River drops.

“The odour and appearance of the river are unfortunately negative side-effects of the low-flow conditions.

However, other factors have played a role in exacerbating this condition,” said Sukhdeo.

He said the mill was busy installing fine bubble diffuser technology to try and improve the impact of its effluent into the river in terms of odour and chemical oxygen demand.

Sukhdeo said to date the installation process has not caused any increases in odour or decrease in effluent quality but municipal power outages have.

“The mill effluent quality has been adversely impacted by municipal power outages on several occasions. Since September 21, 2013 the mill has experienced approximately 25 power outages of which 15 were experienced since the beginning of the 2014 winter period to middle spring,” he said.

Then at the Tongaat River mouth, locals sent the Courier pictures of bloated, dead fish washed up at on the banks.

“My girlfriend and I watched the black water with a cappuccino foam line flow from the Tongaat river into the sea,” said Westbrook resident Luke Patterson.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife officer Lionel van Schoor inspected the river but could not establish the cause of the sewage-like smell.

Water Affairs are investigating the situation.

Marine and Estuarine Research director, Professor Anthony Forbes said: “There have been at least half a dozen fish kill scenarios along the KZN coastline since May this year, often caused by harmful chemicals or wastes being dumped into rivers.”


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