Onrus Beach has to be one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in our area but have you ever asked yourself why this stunning beach and lagoon duo has never been awarded Blue Flag status? The reason for this has to be the water quality in the estuary. Every holiday season the levels of E Coli and Intestinal Enterococci are almost always way over the accepted norms prescribed by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
We have a few issues with the Overstrand Municipality sign board posted on the verge above the beach and they are:
1) the sign is too small. It should be as big as the one outside the Milkwood.
2) it is not placed in a prime position for maximum visibility.
3) it doesn’t supply ALL the info needed to make an informed decision.
4) the ‘swim at own risk’ message is confusing.
In fact it notes the ‘recreational standard’ for Enterococci as > 380 cfu/100ml when in fact the accepted fair minimum is 185 cfu/100ml or less. Surly the correct acceptable counts and actual readings should be noted on the board and at least one more sign should be placed right in front of the estuary.
The sign also states ‘swim at own risk’ a message which most people in South Africa associate with drowning and not with bacterial counts in water. If the board read ‘High Bacterial Count in Estuary – Swim at own risk!!’ there would be no confusion. Sadly our municipality continues to sidestep the sewage issue and its causes and members of the Onrus River Estuary Forum remain divided on the issue. Please don’t take chances, especially with small children and babies.
E. coli is a member of the fecal coliform group. Coliforms are often referred to as “indicator organisms”. While they are not harmful their presence in an environment can indicate that conditions are favorable for pathogens to be present. Since E. coli is a coliform of fecal origin, its presence in a sample is considered a reliable indicator of the possible presence of other more harmful bacteria and fecal contamination.
You will find the water quality guidelines here: https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/legislations/water_qualityguidelines.pdf