Fed-up residents clean up filthy river


Residents and their workers have been out in force cleaning up the Nahoon River as sewage and litter continue to pollute it.
The alarm was raised by resident Que Hundermark in March as thousands of fish died. It is not the only East London river causing concern.
A report in January calls for urgent intervention on Buffalo River as pollutants could pose a threat to people’s health.
Compounds used in the production of pesticides and other pharmaceutical products are found in high concentrations in the river, according to a study by three researchers from the University of Fort Hare and one from the University of Lagos in Nigeria.
The compounds are identified as “priority pollutants” by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
On Thursday, residents living along the banks of the Nahoon embarked on a well-attended clean-up campaign, using two barges to move up and down the river gathering the rubbish collected by residents and volunteers.
Some 300 bags of rubbish were collected between 8am and 1pm. Clean-ups have been driven by Nahoon resident Eric Williams-Jones for some time already, but now more residents are pooling their resources to clean the river once a month.
“You couldn’t believe how much litter there was,” said resident Theresa Puttergill. “In our section, we collected about 40 bags alone.”
Nahoon residents say raw sewage is flowing into the river out of the storm water drain off Pearl Road, and also from blocked drains in Nompumelelo township.
“BCM did come to sort out the situation at Pearl Road, but there is overcapacity of the pipes,” Puttergill said.
Hundermark took video footage in March of thousands of dead floating fish including hardy barbel, eel, bass and carp. Experts have suggested a combination of water hyacinth weed and pollutants in the water could be responsible for the mass die-off.
Hundermark said on Friday the water had a foul stench, and the water needed to be tested urgently. “Last weekend we found another dead carp floating. You can smell the sewage.”Meanwhile, the study of the Buffalo River contamination by Adulrazaq Yahaya, Omobola Okoh, Foluso Agunbiade and Anthony Okoh, has raised eyebrows. The report, published in the Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety journal, indicates that consumption of compounds known as “phenolic derivatives” can damage bone marrow, kidneys and livers.Water at six sample stations along the river – Buffalo River estuary, Mdantsane, Zwelitsha, King William’s Town, Izele Town and Maden Dam – were evaluated.The compound found most at all six sites was 2-Nitrophenol, used in pesticides and some medical products. The researchers found higher levels in summer than autumn because warm weather brought increased agricultural activities, more “washing” of the soil and more stormwater discharge in Buffalo City.“Overall, the total concentrations of the phenolic derivatives were remarkably higher than the regulatory standard,” the report states.“Human and wildlife exposure to the organic pollutants needs to be further controlled by regular checking of the water quality.”The findings came as no surprise to East London Museum scientist Kevin Cole, who warned if larger systems showed poisons then smaller systems may do so too.He called for daily testing of the lower reaches of the Buffalo River, which is often used for rowing and other water sports.BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya failed to respond to questions sent to him...

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