There were many dry taps over the weekend. One of the five pipes inside the pump station at Point D got loose and started leaking water. This affected water supply to many areas in the city.
“At this stage we are not yet certain what could have led to the pipe becoming loose. Until an investigation confirms the root cause; we can only speculate that maybe the pipe became loose because of inadequate support or because of abnormal vibration in the plant,” Mr Kingdom Mabuza municipal spokesperson said.
Retired engineer Mr Mervyn van Rooyen warned the municipality two years ago that this catastrophe is going to happen again.
“Thrice in eleven years the public has had to experience an identical complete and total breakdown of water services entirely due to incompetence, lack of interest and downright laziness! This is a simple problem to solve but no-one takes any interest,” Van Rooyen lashed out.
He explained that Point D is the main pumping distribution centre for eMalahleni.
Purified water from the water plant in Woltemade Street is distributed throughout the city by means of five 337kW pumps. These pumps are situated in a sump which is below ground level but this shouldn’t be a problem because there is a sump pump in this sump for the purpose of pumping any leakage water from seals or rain or even broken pipes.
And just in case the sump pump fails there is a large hole in the wall leading to a drain which will duct the water away to a catchment area a short distance away.
There was chaos inside the pump station at Point D over the weekend when it flooded.
“Reasonably safe one would say, if maintenance checks are done to ensure that the sump pump is operating and the drain is not blocked,” Van Rooyen said.
On the previous two occasions the sump pump was out of order when it was needed most and of course the drain was blocked with the net result that the important, large and very expensive pumps were flooded completely with their large and expensive electric motors.
“The first time this happened was in February 2007 and the second time in April 2012. Of course, the third time was last week. The point I’m going to try and make is if this had happened in the industry, steps would have been taken to prevent it ever happening again. This is not rocket science; even the municipality should be capable of achieving this. If it happened a second time, heads would have rolled because the responsible people were not doing their jobs protecting the assets of the employer. I can’t even begin to think what would be the consequences of a third failure! And yet in eMalahleni not a word gets said.”
Van Rooyen said no engineer or manager in the industry would survive this kind of incompetence. They would be out on their ears and would battle to find employment elsewhere.
The cost of repairs to pumps and motors of this size is astronomical and the town simply cannot afford repeats of these easy to solve problems. Not to mention the extreme inconvenience and health hazards associated with not having water for days on end.