The alarm clock beeps furiously, awaking me from my sleepy slumber. Duties await and I reluctantly peel down my cozy duvet to step out into winter’s icy grip. Mornings are not my best but I never regret a weekly stroll along our beautiful uMngeni River to take water samples. It is a sacred time to allow thoughts, idea’s and plans for the day to take shape. I love to watch the rising sun polish the misty skies and hear the burbling waters lap over rocks and through the bull rushes on route to Howick Falls.
I usually start my sampling from York Road pump station, walking up the well-manicured path towards Moonwalk Drive. Perching precariously on the rocks that jet out of a pool of still water, I collect a water sample using a plastic bottle lined with whitish substance to control the growth of bacteria within the water sample.
Next I head off to the Bridge sewage pump station site in down town Howick, to collect a far more contaminated water sample. Many times I arrive to find the sewage pump not working and raw sewage spewing out the outlet pipe. The water is murky grey with solid particles of waste bobbing conspicuously on the surface. Sampling in this part of the river is a health hazard and I cautiously test the waters using gloves and gums boots when collecting a water sample.
A summary of the results from Julia’s water samples over the last 18 months: (Remember that accepted E.coli levels in a river are 100 parts per million (ppm) for drinking and 1,000ppm for recreation and releases from sewage treatment plants.)
- Of twenty two samples taken up stream of all Howick’s sewage pump stations, the average E. coli count was 151ppm
- The lowest readings were: 12, <10, 30, 48, 64 (ppm).
- Aside from the 3 highest E. coli counts all other counts were between 100 and 200.
- The three highest counts were 310, 390, and 500.
- Of the samples taken at the Bridge Sewage Pump Station over the same period of time, the average E. coli count was 4,864 parts per million (ppm).
- The lowest readings (ppm) were 570, 590, 860 and 976.
- All other counts were over a thousand ppm, with the highest being (ppm): 11,200, 14,140, 15, 530 and 24,190.
Weekly sampling has become routine, like shopping or going to work. No matter how small our contribution, it feels good to work with an efficient team like DUCT, to care for our rivers and make a positive impact in the community.