With the Dusi Canoe Marathon just five days away, the raw sewage spills into the Msunduzi River are at an all-time high, causing a serious hazard to hundreds of paddlers’ health.
The famous three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon race is scheduled to start on Thursday from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg, and will finish at Durban’s Blue Lagoon on Saturday.
But according to a statement by the Duzi uMngeni Conversation Trust (Duct), the state of Msunduzi River is diabolical at the moment.
The issue of poor water quality in the river has been a hot topic for a while now with paddlers worried about their safety after 66% of participants in last year’s race suffered “Dusi Guts”.
To avoid more “Dusi Guts” this year, Duct, in partnership with S-Cubed Sports, have sourced a private sponsor, Euro Steel, to purchase much-needed equipment — three high-pressure cleaner nozzles and four truck batteries to aid the Msunduzi Municipality Sanitation Branch ahead of the race.
“The very high E. coli count in Duzi water is relatively easy to determine, and the higher the E. coli count, the more likely that the water is carrying enough pathogens to be dangerous,” said Sanele Vilakazi from Duct.
“The most commonly reported symptoms of E. coli infection are stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Raw sewage spills into the Duzi River are at an all-time high and we are hopeful that this donation will bring about the much-needed change to the current situation.
“The Msunduzi River from the Camps Drift moving downstream is showing high levels of pollution.”
The donation comes after Duct raised concerns for the health and safety of race participants as sewer leaks and blockages along the river racecourse were polluting the water.
“This is all in an effort to improve the very poor water quality numbers of the Msunduzi River, which continuously records high faecal pollution counts from results produced by Umgeni Water,” said Vilakazi.
“These four batteries and nozzles will get the municipality’s honeysuckers and sewer rodding trucks up and running again. Their fleet of trucks will be mobile again. The nozzles will assist the sanitation unit in the quick and effective unblocking/maintenance of sewers.”
However, chairperson of the Dusi committee Shane le Breton downplayed the Duct statements and said everything would be fine before the race starts on Thursday.
“That has been miscommunicated,” said Le Breton.
“Duct themselves, what they do is they work together with the municipality to identify sewer manholes that are broken and overflowing. So, what happened last is that we had a meeting with the [Msunduzi] mayor and deputy mayor to highlight the issues of this manhole through Duct and the mayor and the deputy mayor have given us full support to clean just before the Dusi.
“From that meeting, they have started with one of five manholes which were identified that cause the issues which can affect the race. If we can get those manholes completed prior to the race then we should be fine.”
Meanwhile, Umgeni Water has promised to add another significant contribution to the race with a release of water from Henley and Inanda dams to the river before the Dusi Canoe Marathon.
“An estimated 800 megalitres will be released over 26 hours, ending at 10 am on February 27. This will raise the level of the Msunduzi River so that canoeists are able to move through it with ease during the race.
“It will also flush the river, thereby improving river water quality,” said Umgeni Water’s Shami Harichunder.