New pumps may be salvation for flood-prone valley
THE generous gesture of a dying man may be the salvation of future flooding in the Medolino valley in Port Alfred.
Derek Victor, who has terminal cancer, battled for many years with Ndlambe Municipality to address stormwater drainage in the valley, home to a dam owned by the municipality and which floods in heavy rainfall. As a lasting solution, Victor recently bought two new permanent pumps out of his own pocket to augment the municipality’s pumps at the site, and has given them to the municipality.
The last major flooding event, in 2012, deposited about 180-million litres in the valley and affected 28 homes, some of which were submerged in water up to the roof. It took weeks for the floodwater to subside, and it was contaminated with raw sewage, sparking additional health concerns.
Homeowners in the valley have not been able to get insurance against flooding, or sell their homes.
There have been problems with the municipality’s two pumps at the site, with one or the other being out of operation for months before they were repaired, and lingering concerns that they would not be able to cope with another flood like that in 2012.
Victor was diagnosed with lymphoma four years ago, around the same time as the flood, and with his health rapidly declining in recent months, decided to bring closure to the matter himself.
After trying for weeks to arrange an appointment with mayor Phindile Faxi and municipal officials, he eventually was able to get Faxi to come to the site last week, and show him the new pumps.
“I don’t have long so I’ve been desperately trying to finish this,” Victor told the mayor, who was accompanied by deputy director of infrastructure Onke Sopela, superintendent of roads and sanitation Sipho Babama and Ward 10 councillor Ray Schenk.
“This is what was intended by disaster management, not pumps that don’t work here,” Victor said, referring to a “misguided” decision to buy a portable pump that has never been used in the valley.
“These pumps have more than doubled our pumping capacity. The two existing pumps pump 720 000 litres an hour. These two pumps pump 930 000 litres an hour.”
“The total cost was about R450 000,” he said. “Just the electrical box with the failsafes cost R102 000.”
He estimated the pumps would have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years because they would not run all the time.
“The pumps will only run simultaneously in a crisis, when it’s absolutely necessary.”
Victor said the pumps had been tested three times and there was a guarantee on the installation.
“Everyone in the area will benefit from these pumps,” he said.
“I want to express my appreciation,” Faxi replied. “Even when the premier heard about this he released me from my meeting in Bhisho to come here.
“There’s no record of decision here today, but we’re willing to take the risk and we will table it in council.”
Victor appealed to Faxi for the paperwork to be done on the municipality taking ownership of the pumps.
Faxi assured: “We’re not going to wait for the council meeting on October 26, we’re going to push it.”
Victor said he would draw up a schedule of costs for municipal finance director Howard Dredge, as the municipality will need to insure the pumps.