‘The uMngeni River situation is critical for all,’ local paddlers say

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LOCAL paddlers and environmentalists have expressed concern about the health of the uMngeni River.

Over the past few weeks, levels of E. coli were extremely high and a section of the river, near Willowfield Crescent, was discolored, with black, cloudy flow.

eThekwini Municipality said vandalism at the Johanna Road pumping station led to the contamination. However, other areas with high levels of E. coli have also been reported by conservationists.

Some paddlers, who are preparing for the MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon, said the contaminated river has also affected their training and in one case led to a serious infection.

Related story: Concerns are growing over the health of the Umgeni River

They now refer to the Blue Lagoon section as “Poo” Lagoon due to contaminated water.

Brett Challenor, who was due to complete his 20th Dusi marathon this year, alongside his daughter, Rylee-Kai, said he was unsure what would happen after his daughter contracted hepatitis A while paddling supposedly on the river.

“She went paddling with an experienced paddler on this lower stretch of the river, and never fell in it but got terribly ill. It’s really concerning because it affected her that way. I’m still toying with the idea of ​​doing the Dusi, but there’s a big cause for concern. I think we all recognize that maintaining pump stations along the river is an issue,” he said.

Also read: Community tackles illegal dumping on Roadhouse Crescent

Fellow paddler and Durban North resident Travis Wilkinson, who plans to paddle the Dusi with his teenage son, Scott, echoed Challenor’s sentiment.

“We did most of our training at sea. We paddled very little on the river and if we do, we tend not to cross the Connaught Bridge, which smelled terrible. Hearing about Brett’s daughter is tragic, and as a family we are nervous.

“The uMngeni River is the lifeblood of so many people. Although we are still planning to do the Dusi, the high levels of E. coli are of concern. I agree that the basic maintenance of the pumping station needs more attention as the situation is not good for Durban. From a paddle perspective, we will see a decline in numbers, which we don’t want to see,” he said.

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