Eco-champs to test water quality

THE Aller River Pilot Project (ARPP) eco-champs have added a new field to their work — conducting water quality tests.

According to community and liaison officer Thozeka Ntlukwane, this is in addition to their river monitoring and manhole issue reporting.

“This is the beginning of an initiative to make their work more visible and measurable, by producing quantitative data to accompany their monitoring work.

“The first step in the initiative has been to create tables and graphs recording the causes of manhole leakages and the time taken by the Municipality to repair leakages after they have been reported.

“Currently, the results show that, although the municipality has made assurances that issues will be dealt within 48 hours of reporting, only 38% of the reported leaks are repaired within that time, and only 35% of reported leaks in 2018 have been repaired so far. The eco-champs hope to use these records to inform and support improved performance of the eThekwini Water and Sanitation Unit’s waste water network,” Ntlukwane said.

She added the second step has been the inclusion of the water quality tests as part of their usual river monitoring.

“The kits have been generously provided by Professor Esta Van Heerden of iWater Solutions and GCS consulting. They include agar slants and agar plates, which test for the presence of faecal bacteria and lactose-fermenting bacteria such as E.Coli, and test strips for nitrate and phosphate concentrations, both of which can contribute to eutrophication and algal growth when present in excessive amounts.

“These test kits are relatively new on the market and show great promise in that they can produce meaningful data at a relatively low cost.”

She said the first set of data collection showed that nitrate levels remain within safe bounds but that phosphate exceeds the limit stipulated for healthy river systems. Both E.Coli and faecal bacteria were found at almost all the sample sites along the river.

“The water testing will be conducted on a weekly basis, starting from the river’s source in New Germany and working downstream into Clermont, so the effects of the manhole leakages can be measured in contrast with the natural state of the river. Although current results are disappointing, the eco-champs are excited to add this new skill to their knowledge base, and to produce useful and important data to reinforce the work they have done until now.”