Pietermaritzburg – Dusi race officials have issued a late rule change designed to safeguard paddlers taking part in the Dusi Canoe Marathon that starts on Thursday 19 February, following the spate of incidents at the Darvill Wastewater Works.
Damage suffered to the holding dam aggravated by load shedding and heavy summer rains resulted in sewage spills into the Msundusi River and triggered a sharp increases in ecoli levels.
Dusi race officials have been working closely with the Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) to monitor the effect of the spillage on the water quality and have taken a decision to send all the paddlers up the traditional portage at Campbell’s Farm to ensure that no paddlers come into contact with water contaminated by the outflow from the Darvill Wastewater Plant.
Paddlers will be required to exit the river at the Braai Take Out at the start of the 4,4km long Campbell’s Farm portage and the Sewerage Farm Hop used by some of the elite athletes, will not be allowed.
While race officials continue to monitor the effects of the spill on the river, the release of 900 000 cumecs of clean water from Henley Dam will have a positive impact on the water quality as it will dilute the river flow by roughly six to one on the first day of the Dusi Canoe Marathon.
Added to this, no further rainfall and a series of hot days will aid the natural process of ecoli die-off, leading race officials to predict that water quality will be at tolerable levels for the 1400 paddlers that have entered the race.
Dusi Canoe Marathon General Manager Brett Austen Smith thanked the team of experts from DUCT for their committed efforts to test the river on a ongoing basis and identify the sources of the river pollution.
“We have the safety and health of every single athlete at heart, so we rely heavily on getting accurate information about the quality and quantity of the water in the river,” said Austen Smith.
“Our attitude at the Dusi is to play 100% open-cards with our paddlers about the quality of the water in the river so each person can make informed decisions.”
Austen Smith confirmed that the Braai Take Out, which has been the popular start of the long Campbell’s Farm portage for decades but less frequently used in favour of the shorter Pines Portage in recent years, would be clearly marked.
“There will be clear flags and probably chevron tape at this point, and paddlers can either exit on the rocks at the traditional Braai Take Out, or at the natural slipway 50 metres further downstream, but they cannot pass that point,” said Austen Smith.
He also reminded seconds and supporters who will gather in far bigger numbers at the top of Campbell’s Farm portage in recent years that due to the rule change, parking rules require vehicles to be parked on the field before Bishopstowe Hall and that no vehicles will be allowed to park at Bishopstowe Hall. The usual rule prohibiting seconding from the gate at the polocrosse field at Bishopstowe Hall is not permitted.
The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 February 2015.