Durban - Sewage water flowing into the uMngeni River from a nearby pump station is having a devastating effect on the canoeing community.
More than 100 members of one of KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest clubs, Kingfisher Canoe Club, have left in recent weeks.
These members often trained in the river for national and international canoeing events.
Last month, The Mercury reported that thousands of litres of sewage water was flowing from the Riverside Road pump station into the river.
Canoeing South Africa’s Colin Simpkins said for months they had to endure paddling through the stink coming from the river.
Simpkins said the emissions were killing the sport.
“The uMngeni River is a prime location for many of our canoeists to train. We have many people who train for major events and it’s like paddling in a toilet,” he said.
Simpkins said a canoeist who is currently taking part in an international canoe event almost pulled out due to boils on his skin. He believed the skin issue was due to training in the dirty water.
“When there’s a north-easterly wind, the water will flow directly into the sea. It’s been like this for months and even though we were told it would be fixed, nothing has happened,” Simpkins said.
He said there are two outlets through which the sewage was being emitted - one being from under the Connaught Bridge and the other further upstream.
He said the damage being done to the river would take about two years to be repaired.
Simpkins said they had also had to put the brakes on their canoe schools programme as they did not want to put the children’s health in jeopardy.
Avid paddler and mountain biker Rowan Matthews said it was disheartening to see the state of local rivers. He said that last week, illegal gill nets were confiscated from the uMngeni River and those responsible for installing the nets were fishing in a toxic mess.
“The uMhlanga River is also polluted with sewage. If you take a drive to the river just below Ottawa south and Blackburn, the river is choked with plastic. It’s changed its course and is now running down the road. The oThongathi River stinks and is full of sewage. The rocks have a grey slime on them now. It’s pathetic that we have sunk so low,” he said.
A local water sports company has said they had to stop all river rafting and kayaking activities along the uMngeni River due to the sewage water and smell.
EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said a contractor had been assigned to attend to the matter.
“The sewer pump is malfunctioning. This is as a result of vandalism that is happening to our infrastructure on an industrial scale,” he said.
Mayisela said the city was working around the clock to prevent any pollution that may be a result of this state of affairs.
“We are appealing to our residents to work with us in identifying culprits who are responsible for this vandalism, so that they face the full might of the law.
“We apologise to all our external stakeholders for the inconvenience caused,” he said.