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Knysna estuary contaminated

On 11 March 2019, signage was erected at four spots around the Knysna estuary warning recreational users not to fish, collect bait or swim in the respective areas due to excessive high E.coli levels in the estuary.

Knysna Park Manager, Megan Taplin confirms that it is not safe at all to enter the water in the vicinity of the Ashmead Channel such as areas next to Cathy Park, Loerie Park and towards Costa Sarda. The unacceptably high levels of E.coli currently in this area make it unsafe for recreational use.

No one should collect bait, fish, wade in the water or swim in this area until the problem has been resolved.’ SANParks has placed signage at areas of concern and will erect more signage in due course if the levels do not change.

Water sample results taken by the Garden Route District Municipality on Monday the 4th March 2019 in the Knysna estuary have indicated 9 of the 15 areas sampled are non-compliant with the Department of Water Affairs regulations. The Department of Water and Sanitation guideline for recreation stipulates the acceptable level of E.coli bacteria must be lower than the 500 cfu/100ml mark.

Cfu (colony-forming unit), is an estimate of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a single sample. Results are thus reported as cfu/milliliter for liquids.

Results collected at the following sites were compliant and not affected at this stage: The Heads, Bollard Bay, the Point, Salt River, Crabs Creek, and Bigai. Sites exceeding Water Affairs guidelines include areas sampled at the Ashmead channel, Queen Street, the Train station, Long Street, Green Hole, Bongani, and outside the Waste Water Treatment Works.

SANParks has also taken deep water samples and results look positive, which means animal and plant life including the Knysna seahorse, and the Knysna Gobi in those areas, might not be affected by the spikes. The water in these areas is also compliant and safe to use according to recreational guidelines.

Areas around Leisure Island, The Heads, the Waterfront, the main channel, and Belvidere are not affected, and is regarded as safe for recreation activities at this stage.

According to Taplin, the Action Pollution Committee (a multi-stakeholder initiative made up of SANParks, the Knysna Municipality, Garden Route District’s Health division and the Knysna Basin Project) managed to investigate the source of the problem on previous occasions when they experienced such spikes in E.coli levels in the water.

Knysna Municipality confirmed that there was a chemical contamination at its Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) dating back to February 2019 and acknowledged this as a cause for concern. In a statement issued on 7 March 2019, the Municipality said that the normal readings at the WWTW are usually between 1 and 10 mg/l. Over the last few weeks, readings of up to 836 mg/l were recorded. These types of chemicals kill the good bacteria introduced to balance the E.coli levels in the water before it is released. The E.coli levels showed a significant increase due to the chemical contamination at the WWTW.

SANParks is working together with the Knysna Municipality and Garden Route District Municipality to investigate the sources of pollution as well as putting measures in place to address the impact of the pollution. Further sampling will be done on a regular basis to identify the possible sources of oil/grease pollution.


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