GEORGE NEWS - The Meulen River ad hoc committee will be approaching the George Municipality to request decisive action to address the contamination of the river by black sludge that has been flowing into the river since 2016.
The committee was established after a massive sewage spill on 12 February that flooded downstream and out of the Meulen River estuary in the direction of Victoria Bay. After a meeting on Monday the committee issued a statement saying that the matter is enjoying the urgent attention of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Planning.
"Black sludge has been flowing into the river since 2016, killing all river life. It's an epic tragedy," said Ballot's Bay environmental director Sally Kennedy.
"The George Municipality will be approached to ask that drastic steps be taken to halt sewage spills emanating from the Meulen River pump station and other infrastructure. The municipality's budget must make provision for an upgrade of the telemetric early warning systems to avoid the absence of detection of spills that may be the case at present."
Kennedy said that the committee studied the river course and surmised that the pollution takes place en route through the industrial area and urban areas. "But the George Municipality's few test results released throughout the years point at the broken-down municipal infrastructure being a major culprit. One reading from May 2017 showed e. coli contamination as high as 30 000 per 100ml, which is way above accepted recreational river water standards."
According to Kennedy, the Garden Route Biosphere, as well as Knysna Basin Project, is presently conducting research which includes mapping river pollution hotspots. In their fact gathering mission, the Meulen River committee has begun with independent water sampling tests.
This is part of their plan to approach the George Municipality to take urgent steps to prevent further contamination of the town's rivers due to ageing infrastructural sewage systems.
"On Monday the George Municipality advised that a comprehensive investigation is in progress and the quality of the Meulen River will be monitored on a weekly basis. The committee welcomes this and has requested to be advised of the outcome. At the time of the spill the municipality assured the committee that they would be advised of all test results, but despite repeated requests these results have not been received," said Kennedy.
"The committee plans to take matters further and will not leave any stone unturned in their quest to ensure that our ocean and rivers do not pose a health threat."
The committee members are Dr Bianca Currie (Garden Route Biosphere), Dr Louw Claassens (Knysna Basin Research Project), Pauline Cloete (Kai Tikquoa Conservancy), Cllr Erika Brown (Wessa committee member and George town councillor), Pauline Lourens (Wessa), Henry Paine (George Heritage and Ballot's Bay Heights Property Owners), Pierre Durant (Wilderness Ratepayers Association) and Warren Lubbe (Ballot's Bay HOA/estate manager).
The George Municipality said the test water results will form part of a monthly report to Council, first going via the Civil Engineering Section 80 Committee. Once the report has served in Council, the information will be available for public knowledge.