AFTER a tough week of not having water, some for up to five days, Ndlambe residents, specially ward 10, approached TotT offices one after the other hoping to find a reason of water disappearance.
Ward 9 was another affected area, where water had been at low pressure or simply not running since Sunday up until Tuesday afternoon.
A common grievance expressed by the majority of complainants was the lack of notice from Ndlambe Municipality. As a general response to the water crisis the municipality normally sends water trucks to distribute water to the affected areas. This time there was no water truck and s no communication by the municipality.
Following several calls to the municipal spokesperson, Cecil Mbolekwa that generated no response, calls were also made to Ndlambe mayor, Phindile Faxi as well as municipal manager, Rolly Dumezweni, but these calls were not answered and it was only possible to leave messages. However, at time of going to press no response from anyone at the municipality had been received.
TotT contacted ward 10 councillor, Ray Schenk who shared what he was told by the relevant department at the municipality.
“Last week I was informed by the Department of Infrastructure that a water pump between the Sarel Hayward dam and the Port Alfred balancing dam had broken down, restricting water flow to the balancing dam. At about the same time a water mains burst, restricting water flow from the Port Alfred water treatment works and town,” Schenk said.
Schenk went on to state that efforts to deal with the situation were made on Saturday but at the time the reservoirs were very low and affecting the water pressure.
Expanding on the problem he said, “To put the cherry on the cake, it was found that the outlet from the balancing dam to the water treatment works had become clogged with debris and, on Monday, divers had to be contracted to remove the debris in order for the water to flow freely to the water treatment works”.
According to Schenk things were expected to normalise by Wednesday. “The reservoirs are now being filled again and should be back to normal capacity soon. Water pressure should also return to normal,” he said.
Talking about his personal scrutiny of the situation, Schenk said, “My observation to all of this (except of course the burst water mains, over which there is no control), is that the municipality does not have an adequate maintenance plan and budget to service and maintain all the water pumps”.
According to Schenk poor planning appear to be the root of the problem.
“A large chunk of the water pump maintenance budget was transferred to the overtime budget during the Budget Adjustment period in January 2018, instead of adequately servicing the water pumps” he said.
Chairman of Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association (Parra), Dawie van Wyk also alluded to budget adjustment leading to the failure of pump maintenance. Through his study of the budget van Wyk established that money initially allocated to pump maintenance has been re-assigned to overtime and casuals.
“Due to the unbudgeted overspending in some departments, for example Protection Services and Infrastructure Departments, overspent on casuals (R 1.4 million) and overspent on overtime (3, 1 million) money had to be found from other sources,” he said.
“One such source was pump maintenance which had its budget reduced from R610,000 to R415,000. It is critical that pumps be maintained and Parra believes this is why we experience ongoing pump failures in Ndlambe.”