Coast KZN

03 Sep 2020

River wrecked by sewage spill

Vanisha Moodley ( South Coast Herald) Picture: The river mouth is closed and the water is black with sewage. Activities on Pennington beach have been prohibited due to contaminated water. This stunning image of the pristine Scottburgh surf was submitted by Sean Meets. The sewage spill has contaminated the Nkomba River in Pennington and is a health hazard. Raw sewage has polluted the Nkomba River and killed its ecosystem.

Sewage spills seem to be a perennial problem in Pennington, with Dolphin Drive a particularly troublesome spot.

“This area has been plagued by sewage spills for the past 10 to 15 years,” said environmental assessment practitioner, Adrienne Edgson.

For the past several weeks, say residents, raw sewage has been spewing from a manhole in Dolphin Drive, as well as from a ruptured pipe near the pump station on the opposite side of the road. The sewage flooded the road before making its way into the Nkomba River, wreaking havoc on its ecosystem.

“There’s not one living thing in there anymore and it has just become a conduit for raw sewage,” explained Adrienne.

Ugu District Municipality sent a team to the site last week and workers were able to stop the leak. However, the damage has been done.  The river and adjacent wetlands are still contaminated and remediation and rehabilitation, which will take months, is yet to begin.

The river mouth was breached last week but this was not enough to address the problem. Now the mouth has closed again, and the water in the estuary is still black with sewage, and extremely malodourous.

Wiping out the river’s ecosystem is not the only damage the spill has caused – water samples taken by the municipality revealed that the E.coli count was in excess of 100 000 per 100ml. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs website, E.coli cells should not exceed 500 per 100ml of water, on average.

“This is a critical matter and it’s even more alarming that these samples were collected from the garden of a property opposite the pump station,” said Adrienne. “The people living there have had to endure the dreadful sight and smell of raw sewage for quite some time now, and despite their attempts to contact Ugu, they feel the problem has not been efficiently addressed.”

The contamination has led to all activities – including fishing, and the collection and consumption of all sea creatures – being prohibited in the Pennington beach area until further notice.

A handful of residents, along with the Pennington Conservancy and Ugu’s Environmental Health Services, are monitoring the situation.