DESPITE being warned against swimming in the heavily polluted Swartkops River, a Port Elizabeth long-distance swimmer successfully completed his swim at the weekend.
Kyle Main, 29, a four-time Redhouse River Mile winner, completed the 16.5km swim on Saturday.
The river is heavily polluted from sewage, litter, waste from the Markman Industrial Area and spills from abattoirs along the river.
Main, who has completed several endurance swims, said he decided to challenge himself and swim Eastern Cape rivers longer than 10km.
"I did the swim and it went well. There was lots of talk from people about the river being dirty and polluted, but I did not have any side effects whatsoever," the former South African swimming champion said.
"I took a couple of meds for precaution. I went to my sports doctor and he gave me two injections and I took two probiotics two days before the swim and two after it. I also plugged my ears." But he came under fire from Michael Zoetmulder whose company, Zports, organises the Redhouse River Mile.
Zoetmulder said the swim was of "serious concern" because of the message it sent.
"It shocks us that someone of Kyle Main's standing would be so irresponsible as to swim in a river which is so badly polluted. Instead of putting his health at risk by such a venture, Kyle should rather be fighting the cause to raise awareness of the atrocious condition of the Swartkops River in an attempt to get the authorities to clean it," he said.
Replying to Zoetmulder on Facebook, Main said: "Mike, thanks very much for your concern.
"However, this swim, like many I've done, is not for sissies."
Main said yesterday that while the swim was no worse than any he had done before, there might be those who could get sick swimming in the polluted river.
"I have been fairly fit for the past three years and my goal was to swim the English Channel, but it was rained out."
Morgan Griffiths, senior conservation officer at the Wildlife and Environmental Society of SA (Wessa), said despite Main's successful swim, the river was not safe for the sport.
"He stood a high risk of contracting internal or external infection," he said.
"If we pollute our rivers we are not just polluting them, but also killing our birds."
Main, who pulled out of a swim around the shark-infested Bird Island to raise awareness of rhino poaching last year because of bad weather, will take on the 18km swim in December.