Cape Town faces chlorine squeeze to purify drinking water, but City has back-up plan

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Despite a shortage of chlorine, which is used to purify drinking water, the City of Cape Town is likely to receive some supplies soon, preventing it from running out.

"Cape Town is planning for an extended period of supply constraints and is executing contingency plans to ensure chlorine is available to meet the national... drinking water quality standards at all times," mayoral committee member for water and sanitation Zahid Badroodien said in a statement on Thursday.

He also said that tap water is currently safe to drink. 

NCP Chlorchem, headquartered in Kempton Park in Gauteng, supplies the City of Cape Town. It has faced a double whammy of delays in obtaining imported raw materials due to infrastructure problems at KwaZulu-Natal ports, as well as electricity problems at its plant.

If there are dips in electricity, the production plant often shuts down and needs to be restarted again.

"We did have some hiccups and ran close to empty this time around, but our teams on site are working through the night and doing all possible to get to a higher level of production. We seem to be back to normal levels again now," the company's managing director Andre Harding said on Wednesday afternoon.

NCP put out a warning to its customers on Wednesday to say it might possibly run out of chlorine, but it believes there are enough chlorine molecules available so that drinking water will not be impacted.

"Usually we would ask other chlorine manufacturers for help when we run low, but this time they were facing challenges as well," says Harding. "We are doing all we can to make sure the Cape Town area gets its chlorine supply in time to ensure it does not run out of drinking water."

Harding points out that, even if there is no chlorine supply, there are alternatives in place, approved by the Department of Water and Sanitation, which can be used as a backup plan.

Badroodien said the City is exploring "all possible alternatives including international procurement options to mitigate the risk of protracted national supply constraints", and that the country on the whole is currently experiencing a chlorine supply shortage.

It expected to get more chlorine in by next week.

"The City aims to ensure we do not reach a point where the national shortage of chlorine impacts on the quality of drinking/tap water," 

He reiterated that it doesn't actually have a water shortage issue.

"The issue relates to national supply constraints of chlorine for water purification purposes.  While there is ample water in our dams, we need to ensure treated drinking water can be supplied sustainably throughout the period of national chlorine supply constraints."

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