Fears over pumping from Mooi, Umgeni

2010-09-29 00:00

CONSERVATIONISTS are questioning the legality of construction tankers that regularly pump water from the Umgeni River above Albert Falls and the Mooi River.

The residents are concerned about the loss of a substantial amount of water from the rivers, the impact the tankers have on the river banks, and possible leaks of oil from the engines, a few drops of which they say will contaminate the water.

The operation is associated with Transnet’s multi-product pipeline project which runs from Johannesburg to Durban.

Allegations are that in Mooi River the tankers pump between 300 000 and 500 000 litres of water per day to dampen roads affected by the project, figures which could not be confirmed yesterday.

Environmental consultant Judy Bell said the Mooi River is already under severe strain from the lack of rain and the cumulative impacts of pollution from both the landfill and ongoing sewerage spills and leaks.

“At the abstraction site there is visible damage to the river bank from the trucks driving to the river’s edge to pump water,” said Bell.

Duzi-Umgeni Conservation Trust spokesperson Andrew Booth said the point at which the water is removed from the river needs to be monitored to ensure that it is not eroded or contaminated.

Group Five environmental engineer Ryan Phelan yesterday said the water abstraction for the project is approved by the relevant authority.

He said the foam that people see is harmless and is the reaction of a dust-suppressant chemical that reacts when mixed with water.

When the water comes into contact with the soil it binds the particles together.

“The chemical is harmless to animals and humans. Its advantage is that instead of watering the road surface three times a day with water straight from the river, you do it once with the solution of the chemical and water,” said Phelan.

He acknowledged the concern over the river bank erosion, saying that from next week the heavy tankers will be kept away from the bank. Stand-alone pumps will be brought in to all the water abstraction sites.

“These will pump 15 000 litres of water in seven minutes as opposed to the trucks standing on the river banks for about 45 minutes pumping the same amount of water with their built-in pumps,” said Phelan.

Water resource management inspector Norman Ward said water abstraction approval is granted for all water tankers for temporary use such as dust suppression or compacting of soil and gravel, with authorisation lasting one year.

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