Latest prolonged water outage affected the entire town

SLOW PROGRESS: Municipal workers at work on a burst pipe on Wesley Hill on Sunday afternoon – one of several breaks in the pipeline network that had to be attended to after pumping of water resumed after a power failure at a substation Picture: JON HOUZET

The Port Alfred area, including Nemato, has been suffering severe water shortages recently due to the failure of ageing infrastructure and a lack of maintenance on the pipelines supplying Port Alfred.

Ndlambe’s infrastructure deputy director Thulani Maluleka and water and sanitation supervisor Enoch Jobela explained the situation at a press briefing with Talk of the Town on Tuesday morning.

According to Malukele the problems began when a power failure at the substation driving the water pumps occurred last Friday and necessitated turning the main valve off, cutting off water supply to the Port Alfred area.

When power was restored the dams had to be refilled and the main valve reopened, but this increased the pressure on the system and several pipes or connections burst. This has been the reason for the current lack of water in the area, Malukele said.

Yet water problems have been the norm in the Ndlambe municipal area for many years, and last year, especially, saw frequent outages affecting all high-lying areas in Port Alfred – including Nemato, the west bank and east bank – lasting for days on end.

Kenton-on-Sea has also been on severe water restrictions and in the past other areas like Alexandria also had to endure days and often weeks without water.

Six years ago the Eastern Cape provincial government appointed Amatola Water to establish and enact plans to alleviate the situation, but since their appointment very little has been achieved despite several false-starts and failed projects that have wasted millions of rands but have brought no relief to the area.

Residents are angry about what they perceive as the inability of the municipality to fix the problem in a timely fashion, and some residents have now been without water for a week. The municipality has not sent water tankers into the areas worst affected, specifically to residents on the east and west bank, and many residents have had to rely on rainwater tanks – which quickly emptied – to wash themselves, do laundry or cook.

Schools in the area have faced challenges as school toilets could not be used because of there being no water to flush. Kuyasa Combined School principal Xolani Mayana expressed his concerns on Tuesday.

“We have been without water and may have to close the school early today if the water des not return,” he said. Asked what he envisioned if there was still no water Mayana said that they may not be able to open the school until water is restored.

Laura Guest, Port Alfred High School’s manager of marketing, alumni and development, said that the school was coping due to the efforts of Red Alert and its estate management team, but that the situation could not continue indefinitely.

“We have asked our pupils to bring hand-sanitiser to school,” she said.

Tertiary institutions such as Stenden also rely heavily upon municipal water and Lindy Hulley from Stenden said that students there were having to do without water and that matters were becoming critical.

Port Alfred Business Forum chairman Marius Claassens said that his business, like almost all others, relies on water and that rainwater tanks were beginning to run dry.

“Hotels and guest houses are having to refuse bookings and other businesses are losing money as they are forced to turn customers away,” said Claassens.

Sunshine Coast Tourism manager Sandy Birch said that she had received reports from bed and breakfast establishments and hotels that may need to close if the situation remains unresolved.

“Water tanks are now running low and accommodation outlets are unable to do laundry, a critical aspect of their business,” said Birch, who also confirmed on Tuesday that some areas on the East Bank had not had water for six days prior to this.

Clinical services manager for Port Alfred Hospital, Marianne Stiglingh, said: “Port Alfred Hospital is dependent on a reliable water supply by the municipality.  However, the hospital maintains sufficient water reserves in on-site water tanks to ensure continuity of services during short term water outages, such as in the current situation.  With regard to water quality, Port Alfred Hospital frequently monitors the quality of its on-site water reserves and, should it be necessary, can treat the water on-site to improve the quality thereof to required standards.”

Talk of the Town will continue to communicate with municipal officials as well as residents and other stakeholders and keep our readers informed of developments as they occur on our web page, www.talkofthetown.co.za and on our Facebook page and group.

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