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City denies desalination plants inoperative for the last month

The City denies that the desalination plants at Strandfontein and Monwabisi have been inoperative for the last month, as alleged by civic action group STOP COCT – Dear Cape Town last week.

After the City refused to grant members of the media a tour of the two plants, members of STOP COCT visited the Strandfontein plant on 1 December.

“If the plant is operational, water from the sea can be seen entering the plant in the high towers clearly visible from the outside,” said Dear Cape Town founder Sandra Dickson from her office in Brackenfell.

“This was not the case, and when we started asking questions from various people working around the pavilion, including employees at the plant, we were told that the plant was not operational for the past month. When water flows into the plant, a high-pitched sound comes from the plant’s machines. We were told that the same was happening at the Monwabisi desalination plant,” she said.

For the past month STOP COCT – Dear Cape Town has noticed that the City of Cape Town’s water report has shown a drop in the production of augmented water. “The around 50 million litres of augmented water produced per day was reduced to a mere 20 million litres per day since 25 October 2018.”

This is very concerning, said Dickson, as water augmentation was supposed to be the City’s plan B in case of another water shortage.

“STOP COCT finds this alarming, because what would have been the solution if we were still in a drought situation and people’s lives depended on these desalination plants? According to Ms Limberg these plants give the City ‘valuable experience’ but STOP COCT is of the opinion that the cost of R834 m for these plants to gain experience is outrageous,” said Dickson.

“Increased water tariffs were based on cost projections around water augmentation, which has now more than halved,” she added.

After questioning the City about the plants, as was reported in TygerBurger last month, STOP COCT was informed that due to turbidity in the water at False Bay, the plants were shut down between 1 and 7 November, but was assured that full operation returned after that, producing 14 million litres of water per day.

In a media statement issued last Monday, a City spokesperson stated that the Strandfontein plant is operational and Monwabisi is “being brought back on line” after being affected by the occurrence of algal blooms and the turbidity of the ocean.

“Algal blooms cause damage to the sensitive membrane filtration systems of the desalination plants, while the high turbidity affects the pre-treatment processes of the desalination plants, which can result in reduced production by the plant. Halting operations temporarily is thus a precautionary approach while ongoing monitoring and technical assessments continue to ensure the optimal functioning of the plants,” the statement read.

The City admitted that Strandfontein and Monwabisi have “at times been affected by algal blooms and the high turbidity of the seawater”.

“The Strandfontein plant was producing little to no water over the period 1 to 7 November due to the high turbidity of the seawater. The Monwabisi plant could not operate for four days during the same period.

“After resuming production, both plants again stopped producing drinking water on 16 November due to the occurrence of the algal bloom but are now fully functional otherwise,” the statement read. The City did not specify on which date the plant started operating again after 16 November or exactly when Monwabisi will be “online” again.

What is your opinion on this article? Let us know at briewe@tygerburger.co.za.

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