City’s water pipes crumble

2017-11-10 14:04
KwaPata residents use a plastic bottle to stem the water from a burst pipe that had been running for months to make a tap.

KwaPata residents use a plastic bottle to stem the water from a burst pipe that had been running for months to make a tap. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg's water and sanitation infrastructure is crumbling.

The city has been recording an average of five burst pipes a day and an average of 11 sewerage mainline blockages every 24 hours.

The municipality is now planning to spend R50 million in the next financial year to deal with the ageing infrastructure. This is over and above money already allocated to a similar programme in the city’s five-year revival plan.

Acting Infrastructure Business Unit general manager Brenden Sivparsad told a Msunduzi Municipality executive committee (Exco) meeting on Thursday that in July the business unit had recorded a total of 146 burst pipes in 31 days.

“Projecting ... burst mains for the remainder of the financial year shows a total of 1 825 bursts,” he said.

Figures presented by Sivparsad showed the number of burst pipes had skyrocketed over the years, jumping from a moderate 608 in the 2006/07 financial year to 2 138 in 2016/17.

The figures may be more than what is contained in the report, he said.

“It should be noted that these burst mains records are directly off our HEAT programme [an internal tool used to log, track and dispatch calls] and sometimes faults that get reported directly to operational staff or management via councillors or the public do not necessarily get captured on HEAT.”

Asbestos cement pipelines account for 60% of the city’s entire water reticulation network, he pointed out.

“Asbestos cement pipes have a life­span of 30 years and many of these pipes have reached the end of their useful life. This is evident in the number of bursts that are occurring especially in areas with asbestos cement pipes,” said Sivparsad.

He also revealed the city had failed to respond to 217 of 848 water faults reported to it in July this year.

Of the nine leaking valves reported during that month, only one was repaired and of five leaking standpipes two were fixed. Only four of 31 faulty meters were repaired. In July the municipality had also recorded 333 mainline blockages in 31 days.

“Projecting mainline blockages for the remainder of the financial year shows a total of 4 015,” said Sivparsad.

The number of mainline blockages increased from 1 647 in 2007/08 financial year to 3 839 in 2016/17.

SA National Botanical Gardens staff look at a water pipe burst near the entrance to the gardens.

Failure to fix pipes ‘will lead to constant blockages’ 

“One of the main contributing factors to the higher mainline blockage rates is our ageing infrastructure.

 “It should be noted that several mainline blockages could not be resolved timeously as our existing high-pressure cleaning unit is now obsolete,” said Sivparsad.

“A report was submitted and approved by Exco and full council in respect to [the] redirecting [of] funds at [the] mid-year review for this specialised equipment. 

“Unfortunately no funding was allocated at [the] mid-year review to purchase a new high-pressure cleaning unit, resulting in this business unit having to hire one to resolve mainline blockages. This hire cost is R96 000 fortnightly.”

Sivparsad said the sanitation business sub-unit had three tankers which are 21, 26 and 30 years old respectively “which results in continuous downtime due to frequent breakdowns”.

On Thursday Exco approved R50 million to be allocated this financial year to implement an asset management plan.

The City will allocate R30 million for the rehabilitation of water infrastructure and R20 million to fixing sanitation infrastructure. “Failure to renew water infrastructure will lead to continuous water pipe bursts, resulting in loss of water and interruption to water supply,” said Sivparsad. 

“Failure to renew sanitation infrastructure will result in continuous sewer blockages, which lead to raw sewage spilling into storm water drains and rivers resulting in high E.coli levels in our rivers. This water becomes unsafe for the environment and human consumption.”

Maritzburg Golf Club greenkeeper Graham Dickinson shows the swamp that was created after a pipe burst in a property next to the Club. 

A leaking tap in Copesville.

Pam Golding staff (from left) Sue Harrison, Denise McGladdery and Cathy Koch negotiate the flooded road and entrance to their office after a burst pipe turned Wembley Terrace into a river with a complementary waterfall.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water affairs

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