Signage up subsequent to water sample results

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Signage up subsequent to water sample results

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Signage up subsequent to water sample results

12 March 2019

Signage erected at four (4) spots around the Knysna estuary warns recreational users not to fish, collect bait or swim there.

Park Manager for Knysna, Megan Taplin confirms ‘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. 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 stands for colony-forming unit, 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 deepwater samples and results look positive which means animal and plant life in those areas might not be affected by the spikes, such would include the Knysna seahorse, the Knysna Gobi and others. This water 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 still safe for recreation.

She adds ‘in the past when we have experienced such spikes in ecoli levels in the water, 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) was able to investigate the source of the problem. ‘

Last week, the Knysna Municipality confirmed there was a chemical contamination at its Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTW) dating back as far as February 2019 and acknowledged this as a cause for concern. In a statement dated (07th March 2019) the Municipality added ‘the normal readings at the WWTW are usually between 1 and 10 mg/L and 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 and as a result of the above, the latter has increased significantly.

SANParks is working together with the Knysna Municipality and Garden Route District Municipality to investigate the sources of pollution as well as measures to address the impacts of this pollution. Further sampling is underway this week to identify the possible sources of oil/grease pollution.

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Dolphin in the unaffected part of the Knysna estuary taken by SANParks ecologist, Jessica Hayes

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Picture of the Knysna Heads by Ian Flemming

Media contact: Nandi Mgwadlamba, 078 702 9663, [email protected], 044 302 5633
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Re: Signage up subsequent to water sample results

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Water sample results in the Knysna estuary show improvement

25 March 2019

Results of water samples taken on the 18th March 2019 indicate the Knysna estuary is safe for recreational use in all sites except the Ashmead Channel, Queen Street, the Train station, and Bongani. The Ashmead channel is not safe for use for swimming, bait collection, fishing or wading at present. This extends from the areas adjacent to Loerie Park, Cathy Park and up to the area next to Monk’s Caravan Park. The Thesen island waterway on the Ashmead side is also not safe for use at present. Users of the estuary are encouraged to use compliant sites with the Department of Water Affairs guidelines including the Heads, Bollard Bay, the Point, Salt River, Crabs Creek, the Waterfront, the main channel and Belvidere. SANParks’ deepwater samples indicate areas are compliant and confirm that the deeper waters and main channel are safe for use.

Mc Carthy (Health Officer for the Garden Route District Municipality) explains ‘sampling will be done weekly by the District Municipality and in line with tidal flow. We are expecting a flush in 2-3 days and will definitely continue to sample thereafter.’

SANParks has erected signage at four (4) spots around the Knysna estuary warning recreational users not to fish, collect bait or swim there. Notices have been issued to tourism establishments around the area of concern so that they can warn guests not to use the unsafe area of the estuary. SANParks has also sent out regular ranger patrols to the affected area to warn people about the dangers of using the water.

Investigation into the causes of oil and grease that have entered the Waste water Treatment Works (WWTW), causing bacteria to die off and the WWTW to release high loads of E.coli into the estuary has led the Knysna Municipality and Garden Route District’s Health division to sample and check all pump stations. James McCarthy of the District’s Health division says ‘we physically checked all the pump stations to find the cause. We have also sent notices to establishments closest to the stations found to have high levels of oil and grease to request proof of proper disposal of oil stores.’

Apart from this joint investigation, Knysna Municipality has tackled the problem at the WWTW by introducing an oil-eating enzyme into the system while regularly dosing the WWTW with beneficial bacteria from the Brenton-on-Sea waste water works.

A pre-directive was issued by the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA) to the Knysna Municipality subsequent to the spill from the WWTW. The Municipality will be given an opportunity to provide further action plans to rectify the situation. According to the Knysna Municipality, the good news is that oil and grease counts in the WWTW are a lot lower since the investigation into the matter two weeks ago.’

The BGCMA has also undertaken to do more regular chemical samples including pH levels, ammonia, nitrates, phosphates levels in the water and others. SANParks has also committed to continue with deepwater samples although they’ve come out positive. Park Manager for Knysna, Megan says ‘in addition, we’ve committed to reviving and chairing the Knysna Estuary Pollution Committee to meet on a weekly basis to tackle this and any future incidents so that we protect the Knysna estuary’s unique biodiversity and tourism value.’

Boilerplate: SANParks has also taken deepwater samples and results look positive which means animal and plant life in those areas were not affected by the spikes, such would include the Knysna seahorse, the Knysna Gobi and others. Independent researchers declared the Knysna estuary as number 1 in the country in terms of biodiversity significance back in 2005.

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Knysna seahorse, SANParks

Media queries: Nandi Mgwadlamba, Garden Route National Park, 078 702 9663, [email protected]

Christopher Bezuidenhout, Knysna Municipality, 044 302 638, [email protected]

Herman Pieters, 081 455 5699, [email protected]
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