Several spots around the Knysna Estuary are currently unsafe for recreational use due to the high levels of E. coli currently in the area as the result of a contamination.
Knysna Park Manager Megan Taplin explains which areas are not safe.
“It’s 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.”
Taplin adds that locals and tourists are urged not to collect bait, fish, wade in the water or swim in the area until the problem is resolved.
South African National Parks (SANParks) has placed signage in these areas urging members of the public to steer clear of them and will erect more signs if the E. coli levels do not change.
A possible cause for the water contamination could be the contamination of tanks in the Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) at the start of February 2019.
Knysna Municipality, Technical Services Director, Pavir Hariparsad says that a chemical contamination in the tanks caused bacteria levels to fluctuate.
“Once the problem was identified, the Knysna Municipality, joined by Garden Route District and a consultant, worked tirelessly to correct the bacteria levels to prevent contamination of the Knysna Estuary and to find the source of the harmful substance that resulted in the natural bacteria in our tanks dying off in the first place,” he says.
Hariparsad adds that the municipality is working with other organisations to tackle the issue.
“We are working together with SANParks and Garden Route District Municipality to ensure that the levels within estuary returns to normal.”
On March 4 2019, several tests were conducted by the Garden Route Municipality and the water sample results indicated that in the Knysna Estuary nine out of 15 areas sampled are non-compliant with the Department of Water Affairs regulations.
SANParks released an official statement explaining the department’s guidelines.
“The Department of Water and Sanitation guidelines for recreation stipulates the acceptable level of E.coli bacteria must be lower than the 500 cfu/100ml mark.”
Cfu is a shorthand for “colony-forming unit”. The amount of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a single sample is measured using these units.
The results have confirmed the following areas as safe and compliant with the national regulations: the Heads, Bollard Bay, the Point, Salt River, Crabs Creek, and Bigai. Other areas which are safe for recreation are Leisure Island, the Waterfront, the main channel and Belvidere.
The following areas in Knysna are not safe to use:
– Ashmead channel
– Queen Street
– The Train Station
– Long Street
– Green Hole
– Outside the Waste Water Treatment Works
SANParks has taken deepwater samples in the estuary and the results were positive. This means that animal and plant life such as Knysna seahorses, Knysna Gobi and other species found in the area “might not be affected by the spikes”. The deepwater has been considered as compliant and safe to use.
Hariparsad says that they are working round-the-clock to find a solution.
“In the meantime we continue to monitor the situation along with our partners, the Garden Route District Municipality Department Health, and SANParks. Rest assured that, not only have we done all in our power to pinpoint the source of the contamination, but are working tirelessly on finding ways to prevent future pollution of the estuary in the first place.”
The Knysna Municipality is urging members of the public to come forward with any information regarding the chemical contamination.
“We call on the public to report anything suspicious on 044 302 6331 or 6332. This is a punishable act by law and if we find the culprit, or culprits, we will certainly take action and let the law takes its course… It is of the utmost importance that we find the source of contamination, and fast.”
Picture: SANParks, Ian Flemming, the Knysna Heads