Lingering threat of disease

THE potential for waterborne diseases in the Medolino Caravan Park/Hards Street area is one of the most pressing concerns after the flood, but Ndlambe municipality seems unperturbed.

With nowhere to drain, floodwater reached as high as the 13m mark above sea level in the Medolino valley – covering homes up to the roof.

The water was contaminated with seeping sewage after a pump station stopped working, and lay stagnant for almost five weeks. The water would have remained there even longer if Medolino owner Derek Victor had not arranged for the marina dredger and other pumps from a private contractor to pump out millions of litres a day into an adjacent valley where it could drain away.

Even though most of the water has been drained, the potential health risk has not abated as microbial threats will be able to thrive for months in the high water table below the mud.

After Ndlambe’s inadequate tests for pathogens in the water – they tested only if the floodwater was “potable”, Victor asked an independent expert from Rhodes University to take samples this week.

The specialist in environmental microbiology took samples of water, mud and scrapings from walls to test for the presence of ecoli, typhoid and cholera. He also took samples of tapwater to ascertain if sewage had seeped into the water mains. Results can be expected next week.

A week after we reported it, and three weeks after an agreement by the municipality’s disaster management team to place warning signs about the contaminated water in the Hards Street/Medolino area, there are still no signs.

The municipality’s lethargy and neglect is also apparent in its failure to use the resources it has to attend to Port Alfred’s ruined roads.

Piecemeal patchwork of potholes is taking place randomly around town, but the municipality has made no effort to clear a mound of rubble from a landslide on Mentone Road five weeks ago, forcing motorists to use it as a one-way. There have been a number of near-accidents.

With the entire Cacadu area having been declared a disaster area the municipality is waiting for funding to address the major infrastructural problems in Ndlambe, like the lack of a stormwater system, but there is no excuse for not clearing roads and ignoring the health risks of ecoli contaminating floodwater.

After municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa sidestepped answering specific questions about these issues last week, TotT asked the DA to comment.

Unfortunately, the best DA caucus leader Ross Purdon could come up with was a generic expression of concern and a promise the DA would motivate for the appointment of “both a geo-technical engineer and a hydrologist to assist us in the urgent planning needed”.

– Jon Houzet

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