Late pipe burst fix derails shifts

2012-02-15 00:00

TAPS ran dry in Mountain Rise yesterday evening.

It was the second water cut in two months, the one during the festive season having lasted five days.

Earlier in the week factories in neighbouring Willowton lost valuable production time when they were unexpectedly without water.

Owners were told that repair work on a pipe required that their taps be turned off, and on again, on Monday evening.

However, this happened hours behind schedule.

Melanie Veness, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, said businesses were told the water supply would be switched off between 5 pm and 10 pm on Monday. But it was actually switched off at 10 pm and supply was restored at around 12.20 pm yesterday.

“The factories affected run 24 hours a day, so at least two consecutive shifts were lost,” said Veness.

“This obviously means a substantial loss of production at significant cost to the affected companies, as well as a declaration of short time for more than 500 workers.”

She called it “an untenable situation”. Businesses in the Willowton area tried in vain on Monday night to call the municipality. For production purposes they needed to know how long the water was to be off.

A resident said he phoned the municipality yesterday morning and was told that water department workers were waiting for their foreman to start work at 7.30 am.

Elsewhere in the city there were power cuts on Monday night in Town Bush, Montrose and Chase Valley and the lower central business district.

Despairing residents said they had all but given up on the municipality and their councillors.

The chamber’s Veness said it was understandable that Msunduzi faced infrastructure and capacity challenges. But when planned maintenance occurred that affected businesses and citizens, every effort should be made to ensure that the maintenance work was done during the scheduled time.

“Council should ensure that every available resource is allocated to ensure that downtime is kept to a minimum,” she said.

Veness said she was only informed of the outages in the morning.

She immediately called the municipal manager, who to his credit, she said, wasted no time in instructing a senior manager in the infrastructure department to investigate the situation and to get it fixed.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said there had been a major pipe burst at 10 Willowton Road on Monday night.

“Our technicians are working to fix the problem and they have been working on this since the morning,” said Zuma.

He said power outages in the suburbs on Monday night were caused by a municipal cable fault at the Grey’s Hospital sub-station.

Another cable fault at the lower Church Street sub-station resulted in loss of power in the lower central business district, he added.

Zuma said the faults occurred independently and about 20 minutes apart, but both of them affected the Retief Street sub-station.

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