Concerned over bulk water and brine pipelines which are being laid in Cannon Rocks, a resident has pressed the national department of environmental affairs (DEA) for a response.
Marcia Fargnoli first blew the whistle on the project in early October, after becoming concerned about the destruction of natural vegetation as the bulk water pipeline was being laid, and preparations for another pipeline to carry brine from an increased capacity reverse osmosis (RO) plant – which is still in the planning stages – all without an environmental impact assessment being done.
The DEA confirmed at the time that no coastal discharge permit had been granted for the brine pipeline, and chief director of compliance Sonnyboy Bapela said DEA officials would investigate the matter as soon as they were done with an international exercise at sea with Interpol.
TotT also sent queries to Ndlambe Municipality, the beneficiary of the bulk water project, and after TotT’s story was published, the municipality forwarded a response to Fargnoli’s concerns from Louis Fourie of Newground Projects, who said the contract was for the development of five pre-drilled boreholes; installation of 6,450m of pipelines within the road reserves and urban area (maximum 160mm diameter); installation of a telemetry system; and building work at the water treatment works.
Fourie asserted that Ndlambe had been declared a drought disaster area which necessitated the development of additional water sources.
“This project is therefore considered a priority project,” he said.
Ass supporting documentation, he attached a directive from the regional manager of the Eastern Cape department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism, Dayalan Govender, in July this year, listing Ndlambe Municipality among seven local municipalities permitted to carry out drought emergency intervention projects in terms of Section 30A of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema).
However, the only projects listed under Ndlambe are for Port Alfred and Alexandria, other than “repairs to existing water reticulation infrastructure” in “all towns”.
Fourie said the pipelines would be installed in a road reserve and within an urban area, “which means the development is excluded from requiring environmental authorisation in terms of this activity”.
He admitted that water use licences had not yet been granted, but that SRK Consulting had been appointed to apply for the licences.
As for the RO plant, he said a tender was currently underway that calls for specialist desalination contractors for the design, supply and installation of a brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) plant.
He said there was already an existing RO plant, but acknowledged that it would be expanded and exceed the threshold to supply an additional 100 cubic metres or more of treated water per day, and thus would require environmental authorisation.
There was further correspondence between Fargnoli and Fourie, in which Fargnoli said there should have been public consultation on the project, complained about the lack of contact details for the contractors, queried why pipelines were being laid without any water use licence being in place, and asked how a brine pipeline could be installed before contractors had even been hired for the RO plant, which also still had to go through a Nema process.
“How can a pipeline be built to discharge wastewater that has not been authorised?” she asked.
She disagreed with Fourie’s assertion that the pipeline did not require environmental authorisation and pointed out that the current bulk water project for which the pipelines were being built was not part of the drought emergency measures listed for Ndlambe.
“The area where the pipeline has been built so far has removed large amounts of indigenous vegetation and much of it has not been in the settlement itself. In the area between Boknes and Cannon Rocks, the width of indigenous vegetation removed was at least as wide as the road itself,” Fargnoli said.
In her letter to the DEA, Fargnoli queried how Cannon Rocks could be considered an urban area.
“The place they have built the pipeline is between two small towns, on one side sand dunes with thicket vegetation and forest and on the other side cattle farms. They have built the pipeline past the road reserve and into thick vegetation in areas that are not urban. They will continue to build a wastewater pipeline without any permit for wastewater discharge that will be dumped into a national park,” she wrote.
“I think it is presumptuous that the company is already building the pipelines without the approvals in place for the activities that those pipelines are intended for.”
Fargnoli said the department of water affairs had already conducted a site inspection and confirmed that water use licences are not in place. She appealed to the DEA to also conduct a site inspection.
The DEA has not yet responded to TotT’s queries.