Blackout sewage warning

2019-10-18 13:42
City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM

City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM (File)

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Load shedding could trigger sewage spills into the city’s rivers and streams as only two of the 36 pump stations have back-up generators.

This was revealed by the acting general manager for infrastructure services Brenden Sivparsad on Thursday when he briefed the executive committee on the impact of the stage 2 load shedding, which started on Wednesday and is expected to last a week.

He also warned that “if we go to any stages about 4, we are going to have ourselves problems in terms of water provision and catching up”.

Sivparsad said the municipality had not been able to warn residents and businesses of the load shedding because the notice from Eskom came via phone call on Wednesday morning.

“Stage 2 means that we will be sacrificing certain substations alternating on a two-hour schedule.”

Sivparsad said this has placed the City in a difficult position as it compromised its ability to provide water and sanitation services as pump stations needed electricity to operate.

He said the city’s economy was also negatively affected because businesses could not function optimally. “Eskom — in the brief engagements on Wednesday — said their national grid is currently constrained, which means that if we don’t load shed we will lose the national grid, which means total blackout. So we have to conform to their requests in terms of stages.”

Sivparsad said the City was awaiting Eskom’s communique on when the grid would stabilise but until then it had no choice but to abide by its instruction on when to reduce the load on the grid.

He said sometimes the municipality would not shed according to the stages given by the power utility because of faults with its own infrastructure since it automatically shed the load whenever there was an unplanned outage.

“But as far as possible — we don’t want to inconvenience the public or business — we are going to try and stick to our load shedding schedule noting that Eskom have also stated that it might change. They might just — at a click of a button or message — go to stage 3 or 4. We are also waiting for more info from them.”

Councillor Ntuthuko Ntshangase asked if there were no alternative power sources the municipality could tap into. Sivparsad told the committee that, only two — one for water and one for sanitation — of the City’s 36 pump stations had standby generators.

“The majority of them are too big to even have a diesel generator.”

He said the two-hour breaks between substations might not affect water supply. “However, I’m concerned about sanitation because your sumps (storage areas) fill up — you cannot pump it out and you cannot store — it might overflow and that’s straight into our rivers and streams.”

Speaking to The Witness outside the meeting, he said, some of the city’s sanitation pump stations did not have a two-hour capacity so they might overflow after an hour if there was no electricity. This could be even quicker during peak times such as mornings.

Industrial pump stations also filled up more regularly so there was a continuous load, he said, adding that Msunduzi’s biggest concern was how the potential overflow of sewage would impact the quality of water further down the streams and rivers.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality
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