E.Coli and fecal coliform detected in Pet Dam

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GK CRONJE

16 November 2021

While E.Coli presents mild symptoms in most cases, some strains can cause severe symptoms and even life-threatening complications.

For over a decade, the Pet Dam has been the topic of discussion amongst residents in light of the constant pollution that the dam suffers. Human excrement and urine from residents who use the Pet Dam area as a makeshift party site, coupled with years of raw sewage flowing into the dam from all directions, is fast leading the Pet Dam’s ecosystem towards catastrophic collapse. The issue of the Pet Dam’s pollution has already taken its toll, with a large-scale fish kill incident that occurred in 2016. Scores of fish inexplicably died and washed ashore, much to the shock of the community. The most common cause of fish kill is reduced oxygen in the water, due to algae bloom and water hyacinths, an invasive plant species, which has long plagued the surface of the dam. Infectious diseases and parasites can also lead to fish kill, and are often the first visible signs of environmental stress.

Officials who handled the matter at the time, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) manager, Lindiwe Mthombeni, and Species Protection Unit conservation ranger, Lief Mavimbela, has since been a missing link in the ongoing pollution. The MTPA had stated that the fish kill was the result of a drop in water temperature (flash) due to the weather patterns. This dubious explanation, coupled with the alleged water quality tests done by authorities, which never saw the light of day, had raised more than a few eyebrows in the community. More recently, businesses surrounding the dam had complained of a sickening stench eminating from the dam. The cause of the stench was a massive overflow of raw sewage flowing directly into the dam from manholes near Joubert Street.

Msukaligwa Local Municipality has since taken it upon themselves to excavate the area and remove the blockage, which had been attributed to tree roots obstructing the pipeline, coupled with a wide variety of foreign objects in the pipeline, which included blankets and clothing, amongst other materials.

However, it’s too little too late for the Pet Dam’s ecosystem and water quality. Water quality tests conducted by Regen Water Laboratory has indicated that the water in the dam is not safe for consumption by any stretch of the imagination. Chlorination of the water samples has been recommended to achieve total disinfection. According to the report from the laboratory, the heterotrophic plate count (1240) and total fecal coliform count (≤10) have been found to be unsuitable for consumption, and thus polluted. Heterotrophs are organisms, including bacteria, yeasts and moulds, that require an external source of organic carbon for growth. The presence of fecal coliform bacteria (or E.Coli) in the water sample, in this case the entirety of the Pet Dam, indicates that the water has been, or is still contaminated with the fecal material of humans or other animals. Fecal coliform bacteria indicates the presence of sewage contamination, and the possible presence of other pathogenic organisms. Pathogenic diseases that coincide with fecal coliform contamination include ear infections, dysentery, typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, and hepatitis A. While E.Coli presents mild symptoms in most cases, some strains can cause severe symptoms and even life-threatening complications, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure and death. The above bacteria are all disease forming, and results in the water being unsafe for consumption.

The troubling water test results further aggravate the fact that MLM, amongst three other Mpumalanga municipalities, had been explicitly fingered as a main culprit in the years-long pollution of the Vaal River. The Gert Sibande District Municipality had also been informed of the issue on several occasions, but claim to have no jurisdiction in the matter. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted that the party had sent a letter to the Premier of Mpumalanga. To date no feedback had been received. The Tribune ePaper requested a statement from MLM regarding the stoppage and the steps that they have taken to resolve the matter. At the time of publication, no reply had been received from the municipality. Videos can be viewed on our Facebook page of MLM teams attending to the blockage at the Pet Dam last week.