E.Coli bacteria in Cape Town rivers and vleis at very high levels - Dr Winter
Refilwe Moloto speaks to Dr Kevin Winter of Penisnusla Paddlers and UCT's Future Water Institute about the disturbing readings from water samples recently collected from the Milnerton Lagoon on World Rivers Day in September.
Winter is part of a group Peninsula Paddle formed 11 years ago that took on the challenge of trying to paddle from Muizenberg Beach to Milnerton Lagoon. They have grown over the years from just 4 people to some years having close to 100 paddlers on the trip.
Recently under Covid-19 conditions, they could only do the trip with a small group. Collecting water samples along the way has caused some concerns especially the high levels of E.Coli present in Cape Town's waterways.
They collected the water sample quite close to the mouth of the lagoon as that is where the paddle had ended, at the Milnerton Canoe Club, so the levels could very well be higher further upstream the reading which came back was 2419 CFU (colony forming units), which is extremely high, and many labs stop counting above these levels.
E.Coli is one measure of the state of contamination in the water.Dr Kevin Winter, Peninsula Paddlers
E.Coli is bacteria.
While our systems do contain many healthy bacteria that are important to our body's functioning, ingesting large amounts of E.Coli from waterways means taking in large amounts of pathogens along with that, he explains.
The higher the count of E.Coli in that water, the more likely you are to find pathogens or germs that could cause harm to individuals' health if you ingest that water.Dr Kevin Winter, Peninsula Paddlers
What is an acceptable level of E.Coli in our recreational waterways?
Winter says that is tricky as it is not fully understood what those levels are.
But there is a general South African standard of 1000 counts of bacteria per 100 milliliters of water called CFUs.Dr Kevin Winter, Peninsula Paddlers
The paddlers took some 14 samples of water across various rivers and vleis along their journey.
In almost all of these places...they were well over that 1000 - in fact the laboratory has measured up to 2,419 counts - and essentially the machines stopped counting because it is well over the general limit.Dr Kevin Winter, Peninsula Paddlers
Note, this does not impact Cape Town's drinking water system or supply.
How can we help?
Listen to Dr Winter below suggesting various solutions to the problem:
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