City of Cape Town confident about safety of desalination plants

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Cape Town's deputy mayor Ian Nielson. (Paul Herman, News24)
Cape Town's deputy mayor Ian Nielson. (Paul Herman, News24)

Cape Town - Desalination plants are a safe and reliable solution to the City of Cape Town’s water crisis, Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said in response to concerns from scientists.

A 2017 report by the University of the Western Cape's chemistry department had found "high levels of microbial pollution and 15 pharmaceutical and common household chemicals" in various samples taken from Granger Bay.

The findings pointed "to the probable presence of pathogens, and literally thousands of chemicals of emerging concern in the seawater", according to the report.

However, Neilson said there was no cause for concern.

"Any desalination plants awarded to contractors as part of the City’s Emergency Water Augmentation Scheme will be required to deliver water that must meet … the standards set nationally for drinking water quality," he said.

WATCH: Phase 1 of Strandfontein desalinated water production set for March 2018

Claims that surrounding seawater is contaminated by chemicals are exaggerated, Neilson added.

"Concentrations of chemicals/pharmaceuticals in the ocean are typically well below what would constitute a public health risk," he said. 

Cities in South Africa, such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, do not have a future without desalination, according to Dr Anthony Turton, an environmental advisor. 

"The future of those cities lies in the recovery of drinking water from waste and in desalination in a properly engineered way, where all environmental and health concerns are taken care of," he said.

Three desalination plants are expected to start producing water from March 2018 and three additional desalination tenders are currently under consideration by the City, Neilson said.

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