Coast KZN

22 Jan 2021

Human error causes fish to die in Winklespruit

Bianca Lalbahadur (South Coast Sun) Picture: An aeration pump that introduces oxygen into the water at Winklespruit River.

Improper disposal of household waste coupled with sewage sludge is identified as the culprit behind the hundreds of fish that died in the Winklespruit River recently.  An aeration pump that introduces oxygen into the water, that makes it possible for the fish to breath, was used on Monday, 10 January.

“Essentially the reason for fish dying is a lack of oxygen. This being especially evident when there are high levels of contamination coupled with shallow water and sunlight. All of which were present during the Winklespruit situation,” said ward 97 councillor, André Beetge.

Sewage sludge contains man-made chemical toxins and pathogens, all of which pose a serious health risk to humans. The increased number of pathogens that can be found in the water could lead to oxygen depletion and diseases spreading among all wildlife.

“People, or rather the elimination of continued negligent actions by people, which are the cause of 90 per cent of sewage-related problems.  “Other than that, the wastewater system operates alongside the fresh water and stormwater system, all of which is gravity fed with outfall inevitably being along the same stormwater lines and that flows only one way.”

According to Beetge, the pump itself was not faulty.

“From our communication with officials on the ground, it manifested that the line was once again over chemicalised to the point where the excessive soaps and detergents caused a foam build-up which had the pumps sensors detect that it was overcapacity. There was a lack in solid movement yet an excessive increase in foam. The pump then cuts out which requires a reset of the system as while it might register overcapacity, in reality, it’s under capacitated.”

A contributing factor is an increase of solidified fat build-up that causes blockages while the soaps and detergents pass and cause the foam.

“With the pump station thus being rendered dysfunctional and unable to move the waste along, but with more waste arriving from the feeder pump station, the inevitable spillages occur. Just a day or two before the department removed fat and rags that were causing a blockage and outfall into a residential property along Parker Lane.  Although not in this case affecting the pump station operating, a similar outfall from the Rosslyn Road line occurred into the Amanzimtoti River.  Once again excessive amounts of solidified fat, the result of cooking oils and other products being poured down the domestic drains. Once these enter the system and interact with cold water, it turns into solidified fats that easily cause blockages. Add a few rags or hard paper, mix in a few disposable nappies and voila, a recipe for disaster is immediately created.”

Prevention always remains better than cure, however, residents are urged to report faults when observed so that it can be attended as soon as possible.

“While beaches remain closed, the Clean Surf Project Team is starting the new year on a different note. Ongoing sewage spillage at Amanzimtoti Lagoon as well as the Winklespruit stream have become of great concern as it contaminates water, harms huge amounts of wildlife as well as human health.

In light of the recently launched project at the Amanzimtoti Taxi Rank, personnel also ensures that the Amanzimtoti Lagoon as well as the river embankment are being kept litter free which has become a difficult task due to poor water quality.  Therefore, we wish to extend thanks to councillor André Beetge, as both incidents have finally been attended to by the relevant authorities,” said the organisation’s Romy Wenzel.