Infection not from Zandvlei, says City

The wound on Shaun Venters foot one week after the infection.

Lakeside resident Shaun Venter is still in hospital after he slipped into Zandvlei, cut his foot and developed a staphylococcus infection, but the City of Cape Town says the infection cannot be from the Zandvlei water body (“Flushing concerns for City,” False Bay Echo, June 6).

Mr Venter had been fishing with his father on Friday May 3 when he slipped into the water.

Initially he thought the pain he experienced was from the twisted ankle but then he noticed he had had a scratch on his foot which had been exposed to the water; this had become infected.

A visit to Victoria Hospital revealed a staphylococcus infection.

Since then, Mr Venter has been in hospital, and on Tuesday June 11 he told the Echo: “Finally, there is excellent healing happening.”

The City of Cape Town tests monthly for e.coli but does not test for staphylococcus.

“Tests for staphylococcus do exist, however, we do not test for this in our water bodies,” says Kyran Wright, manager of the Zandvlei Nature Reserve.

“Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, commonly found on human skin and noses. These bacteria are present in up to 25% of healthy humans.”

He said e.coli is tested for as it is an indicator organism but is not necessarily a health hazard in or of itself. Its levels indicate the presence of raw effluent which contains a variety of pathogens which are harder to detect in water quality tests.

Outlining the details of recent sewage spills, Mr Wright said there had been a sewage spill in Marina da Gama on Thursday May 9 – reported Friday May 10 – and a larger, more significant spill down the Sand River Canal on Monday May 13.

The northern sections of the marina were closed for recreational activities on Tuesday May 14 following water quality results from the initial spill; and the entire Zandvlei water body was subsequently closed on Wednesday May 15 in response to the latter spill and its severity.

“It is important to note that the section where Mr Venter was fishing is isolated from these incidents and water quality results confirm that there was a low e.coli presence in the system according to samples taken on Thursday May 23,” Mr Wright said.

“An earlier sewage spill actually was detected on Wednesday April 24 in the Sand River Canal. The main Zandvlei water body was reopened on Friday May 31,” he said.

Mr Wright said the City monitored a number of water quality variables in Zandvlei, and that in the event of a significant sewage spill, adhoc water quality sampling was conducted.

When asked whether the City tested water for antibiotics, chemical spills, chemicals leached from plastics or levels of medicinal pollution, Mr Wright said that as far as he was aware, these tests had been conducted at waste water treatment works but not at Zandvlei.

“The technology does not currently exist to remove these chemicals from effluent and is a global issue, not just limited to Cape Town,” he said.

When asked what assurance the public had that the water at Zandvlei was safe, Mr Wright said: “Depends on your definition of safe. It is inadvisable to swim in direct contact in any urban inland water system. Zandvlei is closed when e.coli levels exceed the threshold for safe, intermediate contact with the water according to the South African Water Quality Guidelines. Sampling in this respect is conducted on a monthly basis and action is taken to alert the public if there is an issue such as with these recent spills,” he
said.

Another contributing factor to the health of the water systems is dumping. To report illegal dumping in your community, call 0860 103 089.

If you have the culprit’s vehicle registration number and/or can identify him/her, call 021 400 6157 or email solidwaste.bylaw@capetown.gov.za