RO plant project delayed again

There’s no end in sight for Port Alfred’s water woes soon as the reverse osmosis plant (RO) project has been delayed again by more than a month.

The plant was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of January, but this was pushed to the end of February as stated in a council meeting in December 2020.

Now Ndlambe Municipality has announced a further delay as the contractor, Quality Filtration Systems (QFS), only received a permit on January 29.

The RO plant project consists of 2ML/day salt water RO plant and a 3ML/day wastewater RO plant, including all ancillary works.

“Both plants will be constructed on a site next to the waste water treatment works in Port Alfred,” municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni said in the statement released today.

The tender was awarded to QFS at the end of November 2020 on the basis of the points scored and the price submitted for the tender. This was the second time the project went out to tender. The first time it was awarded a year ago, also the QFS, losing bidder MEB Energy took the matter to court, alleging attempted bribery of their representatives and questioning the vastly different amounts tendered.

The bribery matter was not pursued, but based on Ndlambe’s responding documents provided to the Grahamstown High Court, MEB said the tender process was irregular and asked the tender to be reviewed and set aside.

Judge Phillip Zilwa agreed, calling the tender unlawful and castigating Dumezweni in particular for his role in making decisions.

The tender process had to start from scratch. MEB did not bid this time.

“A contract inception meeting was held with QFS on November 30 2020,” Dumezweni said. “The major part of the project is being funded through the RBIG grant from Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). In line with these requirements DWS representatives participated and observed the processes of awarding of the tender.”

Dumezweni said there had been a delay in the contractor getting the required work permit. The contractor received the permit on January 29 instead of January 9, so the contractor only started on site recently.

“But it must be noted that the contractor had commenced in December to work at the manufacturing plant in Cape Town. A RO plant and the equipment required for the process is highly technical. Therefore the input requires specialist resources and manufacturing of the equipment.”

The construction of the plants has commenced and is continuing at the manufacturing plant in Cape Town. The target is that the first consignment of equipment and materials will be arriving in Port Alfred by mid-February.

“Contractually the completion date of the 2ML/day plant has now moved to beginning April due to the delays mentioned above. The contractor is working hard to ensure that this contract completion time is reduced where possible,” Dumezweni said.

“In the interim at a local level in Port Alfred contractual matters and requirements have been dealt with and this includes the recruitment of a Community Liaison Officer (CLO) as well as the ISD Officer. Recruitment for both these positions has been done locally with Ndlambe LM facilitating the process being undertaken by the contractor and the project managers,” he continued.

The contract also specifies that a portion of the work must be awarded to Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMME’S). The procurement of these companies was also done through a public process managed by the contractor. There are three SMME packages and the contracts for all three have been awarded. The handover of the respective sites to two of the SMME’s was done on January 22 2021. The Project Steering is being established and will be having the first meeting in the week of February 15 2021.

“There is a full understanding and appreciation of the current water crisis in Port Alfred. Hence the progress with the project is being closely monitored by the municipality and its representatives,” Dumezweni assured.

“The municipality wish[es] to thank the people of Port Alfred for their cooperation and contributions during the water crisis. We are most thankful to the communities for their efforts to see us through this crisis.”

In the interim, drastic restrictions have been implemented to conserve the small amount of water available.

“Drought conditions persist, thus our water situation is worsening. We are now solely dependent on borehole water shared between Port Alfred and Bathurst,” Dumezweni said

The high lying areas are the most affected – even if water gets pumped into the reservoirs it is not enough for everyone to have water coming out of their taps between 6am and 10am, as previously communicated.

Water tanks placed around Port Alfred are still serviced and residents may collect water from these sources. The municipality wishes to remind the residents that the restrictions that were imposed in December 2018 due to drought have not been lifted and people must adhere to these restrictions. Failure to adhere to the restrictions is affecting everyone in regards to water supply.

The municipality urges communities to reduce their water consumption by at least 50% in order to conserve the little that we have, to adhere to water restrictions, and to report any leaks to (046) 604-5500.

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