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28 Feb 2020

Sewage pollution threatens La Mercy lagoon

Penny Fourie (North Coast Courier) Picture: A popular recreational spot for kite surfers and wind surfers the La Mercy lagoon has for years been used as a training ground by the canoeing community. Photo: Ocean2Air

Dismayed by the latest chronic pollution of the Mdloti river, residents, coastal watchdog groups and political parties have called on eThekwini municipality to probe into the cause of the repeated pollution plaguing the river which flows into the sea at La Mercy lagoon.

However, Mount Moreland residents who live approximately one kilometer upstream from the lagoon have accused the Verulam waste water treatment works of contaminating the river by illegally dumping raw sewage into the water. The wastewater treatment works is situated less than 10km from the mouth of the lagoon.

Jennifer Beresford, a resident of Mount Moreland said the problem with the illegal dumping has been ongoing since 2009 and has been reported many times without success.

“The problem has now reached unprecedented proportions and is a danger to humans, as well as wildlife and the environment,” she said.

In 2017 investigations by the provincial department of water and sanitation found high levels of E. coli content in the river. According to residents the department did not release the results of their investigation. The matter was escalated to the department of water’s pollution and environment division.

“Inspectors have been sighted taking repeated samples. But we are concerned because we are unable to get test results due to internal problems,” said Beresford.

Pollution continues largely unchecked with the apparent reluctance of municipal officials to name and shame the transgressors. IFP spokesperson on Conservation and Environmental Affairs, Joshua Mazibuko did a site visit of Mount Moreland last Monday after residents complained about the stench coming from the river and the water having turned black.

Mazibuko said that the root cause for the pollution at the wastewater plant was a result of years of neglect and the fact that the ageing infrastructure of the treatment plant hasn’t been updated for years.

“The Mdloti river neglect and pollution is a classic example of a government that has totally isolated itself from the poor and has thus totally forgotten about their plight.

Mazibuko also described the state of the river as a health hazard and said that the IFP was taking the matter up with the eThekwini municipality and the provincial government to resolve the matter.

Civil society organisations have called on municipalities to invoke the National Water Act and to start dealing with businesses that dump chemicals, effluent and waste into water systems including untreated sewage from failing waste water treatment plants.

eThekwini Metro spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the municipality is conducting an investigation into the matter and will act accordingly upon its findings.

“All actions taken by the city will be dependent on the findings of the investigation. In some similar cases, fines have been issued to the guilty parties. These may be followed by legal action if the parties fail to adhere to the law,” he said.