River warrior suspects pollution to blame for bug

Stan Gallon in action in healthier days in 2015.

A Frogmore Estate man believes pollution in the Keyser River, next to his home, is to blame for the persistent E coli infection he has battled for four months.

E coli is a kind of bacteria found in the intestines of humans and animals.

Stan Gallon and his wife, Jenny, are retired and they spend a lot of time clearing alien invasive aquatic weeds from the river that flows into Zandvlei (“River warrior couple battle invasive plants,” Bulletin, March 25, 2021).

Nine months ago, they almost lost their vehicle after a fire was started further down the river. The opposite bank was covered with dense invasive bush and quickly spread towards their home. The Gallons were away at the time, but their car was parked outside the house and neighbours could not move it. After many emails, phone calls and a nudge from the Bulletin, the vegetation was cleared.

In September, Mr Gallon was diagnosed with an E coli infection in his urinary tract. It cleared after he sought treatment from his doctor but it returned three weeks later after he finished a course of antibiotics.

But the infection continued to dog Mr Gallon. His doctor put him on further treatment, referred him to a urologist shortly before Christmas and told him to stay out of the river until the infection cleared.

Mr Gallon approached the Bulletin to get the municipality to shed some light on the condition of the river near his home.

The City’s mayoral committee member for water, Zahid Badroodien, sent the Bulletin a summary of the E coli results for a monthly sampling point just upstream from Mr Gallon’s home.

Dr Badroodien said a spike of 8.3 million colony-forming units (cfu)/100ml in faecal pollution last May, in the northern section of Zandvlei, could have been caused by sewage spills from pump stations hit by power failures. The City calls measurements of more than 4 001 cfu of E coli per 100ml an “unacceptable risk” to public health.

A graph sent by the City shows an almost off-the-chart spike in July and a smaller one in September. This coincides with the first time Mr Gallon got sick.

The Bulletin’s sister paper, the False Bay Echo, reported that Zandvlei, into which the Keyser River flows, was closed on Tuesday May 25 after seeing pollution spikes hundreds of times higher than levels considered an acceptable risk to public health (“Zandvlei water quality results a shocker,” False Bay Echo, September 15).

Dr Badroodien said the link between Mr Gallon’s illness and the water quality could not be easily determined.

Ward 71 councillor Carolynne Franklin said she had made contact with Mr Gallon and would visit him.

Stan and Jenny Gallon clear invasive aquatic weeds from the Keyser River near their home.