By GEOFF EMBLING, Democratic Alliance (DA) Ward 4 councillor
James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works and Waainek Water Treatment Works are both running low on water treatment chemicals, concurring with this week’s Finance, Administration, Monitoring and Evaluation (FAME) Portfolio agenda.
The agenda states that although Metsi Water Chemicals has been paid R195 391, it has not delivered supplies. The municipality has issued Metsi a letter of non-compliance, and the water treatment plants have about ten days of chemical stock left (item 4, pg. 29).
This may be due to a shortage of supply. [EDITOR’S NOTE: In January, South African chlorine gas manufacturers were experiencing severe supply disruptions, but according to this IOL report, there is no longer cause for concern regarding a chlorine supply shortage.]
Regardless, the public needs to be informed about the situation, unlike the last time when Makana municipality ran out of water treatment chemicals.
Pumping water from Howieson’s Poort dam resumed late last year, and in mid-December, members of the public reported an ongoing torrent of water flowing down the hill from Waainek. The Manager of Water was contacted in mid-December and asked whether a valve had been left open, but he did not reply. The Manager of Water for Makana Municipality took charge of the water treatment works during that period.
December was a rainy month, and there was high turbulence in the water, which required accurate measurements with the equipment at the station to be flocculated and treated. As mentioned in parts 1 & 2 of the report, turbulence should not be an issue if measurements are done carefully.
Allegedly, over three weeks, the Manager of Water did not employ the correct methods to determine the degree of turbidity, which resulted in poor flocculation and treatment, and in dirty water. These miscalculations allegedly resulted in approximately 24 megalitres (24 million litres) of treated water being released down the hill at Waainek. The wasted water had allegedly been treated with just over a ton of chemicals.
Howieson’s Poort pump station has one remaining pump out of three, and it is unclear whether the administration intends to get one pump returned, let alone two. Additional information emerged about the two broken pumps at Howieson’s Poort, and it was alleged that one pump burned out due to the operator running the pump whilst the inlet valve was closed.
The pump station was allegedly filled with smoke after the pump had been “running dry” and burned out. The second pump’s impellor may have broken due to pumping during low water levels in Howieson’s Poort dam. The Manager of Water for Makana stated to councillors at the Infrastructure Portfolio meeting on 9 February that both pumps had broken due to pumping low levels of water at the dam.
Thirdly, the remaining pump at Howieson’s Poort is allegedly in poor working condition and is leaking water. It was alleged that Waainek Water Treatment Works currently receives roughly seventy per cent of the eight megalitres a day that it should from Howieson’s Poort, so if the remaining pump were to break, the western half of town would be without any water at all until the transfer pipeline at Worcester Street is repaired. According to the Director of Infrastructure, this should take just under three weeks from now.
On the eastern front, things do not seem much better. Currently, two pumps are remaining at James Kleynhans out of an initial four pumps. The two pumps are presumed to be the new ones purchased after James Kleynhans was flooded in February 2021, causing R750 000 damage to equipment. The public knew about the incident in Feb 2021 because it caused a two-week water outage.
Another incident allegedly occurred in October last year, which is largely unknown to the public, caused a second flooding of the pump station. Out of the two remaining pumps at James Kleynhans, one allegedly keeps tripping and must be reset, so the pump station is mainly reliant on one pump to deliver water from James Kleynhans to the eastern side of town. Furthermore, rumours are circulating of a worker at James Kleynhans who sells liquor from the premises. If the stories are true, this is unacceptable, especially in an environment where diligence and soberness are required to ensure the town’s water supply.
James Kleynhans has a greater capacity for water output than Howieson’s Poort, and it requires four pumps, or at the least three pumps in rotation to prevent overloading. It is disturbing that both the eastern and western water supplies are basically running on “one cylinder”.
Officials remain cagey about the state of affairs, which creates concern and causes councillors and the public to speculate more than they should. From the oversight visits that opposition councillors and some residents have done, it seems as if the two ‘lifelines’ to Makhanda are hanging by a thread. It is not pleasant to ‘call out’ officials, but it has to be done when their decisions affect upwards of 86 000 residents.