Monday, August 18, 2008

SA: E coli counts in our rivers off-the-charts unhealthy

You might say 'so what', except these rivers are used to irrigate, and then that gunk ends up on the fruit and vegetables you eat. A bacteria count thousands of times above a recommended rate is scary.
CAPE TOWN — Stellenbosch University scientists are investigating the levels of harmful bacteria on locally grown fruit and vegetables, hoping to establish a link between the bugs on the food and contaminated river water used for irrigating crops.

“With our massively polluted rivers, all producers will have a hard time producing clean fruit and vegetables.”

One of the rivers Barnes has analysed closely is the Plankenburg River, a tributary of the Eerste River, which farmers use to irrigate crops. She measured the levels of E coli to gauge the extent of pollution. She found the levels of E coli were thousands of times higher than SA’s recommended safety levels of 2000 bacteria per 100ml of water, a threshold that is already twice that of the European Union.

In January 2006, for example, the E coli count was 9,2-million per 100ml, a slight drop on April 2005, when she recorded 10,8-million E coli per 100ml.

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