A recent surge in lingering infections among beachgoers at Strand Beach has sparked growing concerns about water quality and health risks associated with high bacteria counts.
Many visitors were aware of existing water quality issues caused by the troubled Ou Trappies sewer line, but were oblivious to the severity of the health risks they faced.
Strand Beach, a cherished destination for both beachgoers and surfers alike, has traditionally been a bustling hotspot, particularly during the peak months of December and January.
Even though Strand Beach is a favourite for many, the recent health issues have raised concerns about the water. People are calling for better communication and more awareness about the water quality so that everyone can enjoy the beach without worrying about falling ill.
Experts attribute the infections to elevated bacteria counts resulting from sewage contamination in the water.
Although warning signs are often present at Strand, cautioning against entering the water, many beachgoers ignore them, citing issues such as signs being blown away, stolen, or perceived as not urgent enough.
Currently, the City is responsible for managing and resolving coastal pollution incidents, leading to the temporary closure of affected beach sections with appropriate signage until the water is deemed safe again.
However, critics argue that the existing communication methods are inadequate, citing incomplete and infrequently updated information on the coastal water-quality webpage and complaints about flimsy signage that is easily lost or stolen.
According to “2 oceans vibe” news, advocates, including Jamii Hamlin representing surfers and beach users in Strand and Helderberg, stress the need for an effective warning system for beach closures and health risks.
Byron Herbert, from Bays of Sewage, encourages beachgoers to report potential sewage-related illnesses, emphasising the importance of awareness. Water treatment expert, Professor Leslie Petrik, reveals that bacterial counts at Strand and various other beaches have been chronically poor for an extended period.
Disturbingly, the bacteria in samples have shown high antibiotic resistance, posing additional health concerns.
Jean Degenaar, a champion open-water swimmer, shares her harrowing experience of severe illness in September 2023, linking it to swimming in water of poor quality. Her recovery, she believes, was attributed to her fitness level.
“My lungs filled up with fluid and I had to have drains in both. I was in bad shape, taking strong antibiotics and morphine for pain. I think my recovery was due to being fit. But I can only put this episode down to swimming in poor quality water.
“The E. coli levels at that time were pretty high,” she said.
Another person, Craig Hoblyn, also fell violently ill with symptoms, including fever, chills, stomach cramping, vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea which eventually led to him being rushed to the ER.
Hoblyn said: “I had blood tests… which confirmed a severe bacterial infection. The doctor attributed the infection to raw sewage exposure in the Strand ocean water. I have been on antibiotics — three weeks on, I was still not fully recovered.”
Herbert is urging beachgoers to report any illnesses related to sewage to [email protected]. The purpose is to create a database that will help raise awareness about health issues caused by poor coastal water quality.