E coli warning for Clifton beach
Cape Town - Beachgoers who flock to Clifton’s Fourth Beach this summer should be warned that the water could contain high levels of E coli, a study has shown.
“Bathers are at risk of thalassogenic diseases such as diarrhoea, skin infection, respiratory tract infection and hepatitis,” said UCT health faculty’s professor Edda Weimann, who conducted a comprehensive study at the world famous beach last year and fears the situation is even worse this year. Weimann said small children, and those with immune deficiencies such as HIV and TB, were most at risk.
Fourth Beach has Blue Flag status despite
the fact that it is an eco-label awarded to beaches that meet excellence in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness and environmental standards.
The Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (Wessa) manages the Blue Flag programme.
Wessa governance manager Morgan Griffiths said when they tested the water at Clifton last week, it also revealed elevated levels of E coli. However, two days later it had cleared up.
“The water quality is up to standard. I wouldn’t suggest that people should be concerned about the water quality,” he said.
But Weimann states in her report: “The tested water quality was between 10(4) and 10(6), indicating that Clifton beach is affected by waste water. Foam and yellowish colouring of sand was associated with elevated E coli counts.”
The public was not aware of these facts as data regarding water analysis was displayed at Blue Flag beaches only after two to three weeks.
She described the results as “frightening”.
“The water quality is deteriorating and this seems to be completely ignored. The sewage ends up there every day. It will affect people and the environment.”
Her report states in part: “The coastal water around the Cape Peninsula in South Africa is affected by polluted rivers that flow into the ocean, major shipping routes and wastewater outlets of human settlements. With high tide the water from offshore is brought on to the beach area and towards the coastline.”
Mayco member for health Benedicta van Minnen said: “We are not aware of any serious pollution taking place. It is also worth noting that the city is not responsible for the state of the coastal water.”
Van Minnen said the quality of coastal water was monitored every second week, in accordance with national legislation. “The city has established sample sites along both the False Bay and Atlantic coastlines that are determined by the popularity of bathing beaches, and the vicinity of stormwater discharges and river mouths, to determine the impact these have on seawater quality. The water quality is well within allowable limits and all of our popular bathing beaches are safe for bathing.”
Other beaches with Blue Flag status in the city include Muizenberg, Strandfontein, Llandudno and Camps Bay.
In September, Hout Bay beach was declared unfit for swimming after high levels of E coli, due to pollution, were found. Van Minnen said the water was tested again two weeks later and declared safe.