Why the delay for RO plant?

To the cynical among us, it will come as no surprise that the completion date for Port Alfred’s “emergency” seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant has been delayed yet again.

The new “expected” completion date of June was casually announced by the contractor, Quality Filtration Systems (QFS), in a post on their Facebook page on Tuesday. It was meant to become operational this month.

“QFS is currently working towards getting raw water and electricity to site,” the brief post stated. Accompanying it were several photos showing trenches being dug for pipes and cables.

The obvious question is, what is the reason for the delay? No explanation has been given.

A delay of two months – on top of earlier delays – with no explanation.

It can’t be that QFS is only now working towards getting raw water and electricity to site, surely?

This should have been part of their works in progress. The tender document on which they bid, and by which they were appointed as contractor, stated that the time for completion of the first phase 2 megalitre (ML) SWRO plant and associated works is 83 days.

It was meant to start in December, with a construction break from December 24 2020 to January 3 2021. The second phase 3ML water reclamation plant is a 131 day project, also excluding a construction break from December 24 2020 to January 3 2021 – which also anticipated a December start.

Ndlambe Municipality told residents that QFS had started manufacturing the plant in Cape Town in December. The 2ML plant was originally meant to be operational by the end of January.

The first delay was some excuse about QFS not being able to get the required work permit on time, which Ndlambe allowed for without penalty.

Nothing was mentioned of the R30-million already spent on manufacturing the plant during the course of last year, before the initial tender was overturned by the high court. Remember, Ndlambe had already paid R20m to QFS which the court said the company would have to pay back – it didn’t – and then Ndlambe paid another R10.5m to QFS to acquire what had already been built.

We didn’t see any of this already-paid-for equipment arriving on site until the containerised plant was delivered in March, but there was still hope for an April completion date.

The most unfortunate residents have been without water for months. Aside from a two-week period of no water at all, the luckier among us have had low pressure on some days or intermittent supply.

Will the delay damages clause in the tender document ever be implemented?

– Jon Houzet

Port Alfred RO plant delayed again

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