Experts say it would fill 76 Olympic pools
Zwartkops Conservancy environmentalists have estimated that the 15-week-long sewage spill into the Swartkops River is enough to fill 76 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
This comes amid reports of a massive number of prawns crawling from their holes and dying.
The Zwartkops Conservancy’s Jenny Rump said that 20 to 30 litres of sewage a second had been running into the Markman Canal and the Port Elizabeth river for the past 3½ months.
On average, this means 192 megalitres (millions of litres) of sewage have run into the river since the pipes first broke. “It has slowed down significantly today,” she said.
“At one stage, the pipe disintegrated completely.”
Rump said it was hoped the next spring tide would wash most of the residual sewage away.
“I don’t know how the sewage can otherwise be cleaned up. The mud is full of sewage,” she said.
“We are waiting to hear whether the municipality is planning a clean-up operation.
“Members of the public have the right to demand that the municipality publish the results of water tests so that we can know when the river will be safe again.”
She said a dead bird was also sent for a post-mortem exam.
“We have received reports of masses of prawns crawling out of their holes and dying.”
Rump said the conservancy had never before dealt with a spill of this magnitude. “We just don’t know what to expect.”
Aloes resident Eileen Leander said a three-year-old toddler was rushed to a doctor on Monday.
After failing to get help at nearby clinics, six more residents were assisted by medical staff on board the Phelophepa health train.
More than 1 300 children have signed a petition asking Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa to intervene.