It is understandable that residents are questioning the timing of the complete outage in Port Alfred’s water supply since the new 2ML seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant was meant to have gone online last week.
Many noted that we started getting absolutely no water at all since Ndlambe Municipality’s celebratory announcement that the plant had been commissioned and handed over by the contractors, Quality Filtration Systems (QFS), with a tasting for “stakeholders” thrown in.
We were meant to be receiving that water in our homes by last Friday. But no, we did not. And we still have not.
Did all other supplies we had been relying on until then dry up at that very same time?
Granted, we had known for months that the Sarel Hayward Dam was almost empty. The municipality had also notified residents that the RO plant would supply no additional water, but merely replace what they started calling the “Sarel Hayward temporary solution”.
On May 7, municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni said: “We are presently pumping a combined average of 2.7 (megalitres) ML per day from the central belt boreholes, east bank dune pumps, Nel borehole and Sarel Hayward Dam temporary solution.
“Approximately 1.8ML of the available water is presently coming from the temporary Sarel Hayward solution, however, calculations have been done indicating that only 25 days of water remains from this source.”
Dumezweni said the SWRO plant was on track for completion at the end of May. Then it would take about one week after completion to get water pumping through Port Alfred’s reticulation network. He anticipated that, by the beginning of June, we could “reasonably expect the water production to be the same as it is presently because the RO plant water production will take the place of the Sarel Hayward temporary solution”.
We know that deadline was not kept because of some problem with switchgear, which delayed the completion of the plant by a week. Then it was delayed again, operations suspended due to contractors and workers feeling unsafe after three EFF members went to the site and had a heated exchange with some sub-contractors.
Miraculously, our other water sources continued supplying most of the town with water past the 25 day deadline. It was odd then, that other sources completely dried up at the very moment the RO plant was going to start supplying water.
Our latest outage is attributed to a burst pipe and a fitting that needed replacement – on the very pipeline laid between the RO plant and the Nemato waterworks.
Remember, this plant was originally meant to be ready at the end of January.
– Jon Houzet