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Two beaches in uMhlanga reopened

People relax under umbrellas on a beach.

File Picture: Holiday makers relaxing at uMhlanga beach in December last year. The uMhlanga main beach and Bronze beach have been reopened. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA).

Published Dec 2, 2022

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Durban - Two beaches in uMhlanga were reopened for swimming yesterday after water quality tests showed that the E coli levels had dropped significantly.

EThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said yesterday that uMhlanga Main Beach and Bronze Beach had been reopened for swimming following closures due to sewage pollution.

UMhlanga Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP) said they accepted the decision to open the beaches, describing it as the sole responsibility of the municipality.

The news of the beaches reopening would be welcome relief for guest houses and B&Bs in the area that were losing revenue as guests were reluctant to make bookings while the beaches remained closed.

The city had reported on Tuesday that the water quality of the beaches was improving. The report given by the city showed that on November  4 at Bronze Beach, the E coli level was at

14 136. The levels should be below 500 to be considered safe.

On November 11 the level dropped to 364 and by November 25, it had dropped to 52.

Kaunda briefed the media yesterday about the city’s festive season plans and the state of the beaches. He also took to the water at North Beach to demonstrate that the beaches were safe for swimming.

“Most of our beaches are open and safe for swimming. We have partnered with one of the reputable and independent laboratories, Talbot, to constantly test the quality of our water, and we have agreed to compare and share our results publicly,” he said.

Kaunda said that since the April and May floods, the city had been hard at work repairing damaged sewerage infrastructure that had been responsible for the pollution of rivers and beaches.

“This morning we conducted an assessment at uMhlanga Main and Bronze beaches and we are pleased that the quality of water has improved after receiving consistently complying results from November  10-25. Lifeguards have been deployed to both beaches.”

The beaches that remain closed include Westbrook, Laguna, Thekwini, eMdloti, Winkelspruit, Addington, Reunion and Brighton beaches.

“As soon as we receive improved water quality results, we will not hesitate to open these beaches,” he said.

Kaunda said they had conducted an assessment at various wastewater treatment plants and sewerage pump stations to check the progress on the repairs the city was implementing.

“We are pleased to report that sewer pump stations such as Ohlange have been commissioned and contractors are on site to finalise repair work on the sewer lines and manholes.”

He also touched on the safety plans this festive season, saying for the 2022 festive season “we anticipate welcoming 702 000 visitors to Durban”.

“To ensure that our beaches are safe and clean, the city has seasonal staff to supplement the city’s permanent staff.”

These include 160 lifeguards, 135 litter pickers, 20 small plant operators, 67 beach buddies, 48 childminders to care for separated children, 85 pool attendants and 120 fieldworkers for the beach-cleaning programme.

Jade Harding of the uMhlanga UIP said the organisation ran independent weekly water testing at several beaches in the precinct.

“We have been running this testing prior to the floods, communicating these results weekly with our members. It is important to focus on the trend of water quality as opposed to a once-off weekly result.”

She said the trend over the past few weeks had indicated a green (acceptable) E coli level.

“In saying this, the levels could change drastically based on prevailing weather conditions, increased rainfall and the opening of the Ohlanga Estuary. UMhlanga is also susceptible to water quality in line with the natural ocean current (flowing to the north) from the uMgeni River.

“The UIP’s testing does not affect the municipality’s response to open beaches. This is a decision solely made on their collated data, water testing and informed decisions.”