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Turnaround plan for city water woes

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The Sol Plaatje Municipality says it has developed an intensive turnaround plan in order to increase potable water production at the Riverton purification plant.

Sol Plaatje municipal manager Thapelo Matlala explained the turnaround plan to deal with the city’s water woes. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE SOL Plaatje Municipality in Kimberley has indicated that it has developed an intensive turnaround plan in order to increase potable water production at the Riverton purification plant.

The plan will also attempt to eliminate future water shutdowns and water losses in the city.

In an exclusive interview with the DFA, Sol Plaatje municipal manager (MM) Thapelo Matlala said the turnaround plan will focus on three fundamentals, namely the optimal production of water at Riverton, how to reduce water losses and how to improve the water quality.

Matlala said the municipality had embarked on this process in an attempt to permanently eliminate the historic challenges experienced at the purification plant.

He said the majority of the problems experienced at the Riverton purification plant, which had an impact on the low water levels at the Newton Reservoir, were caused by the lack of maintenance at the plant.

He said they are currently conducting extensive maintenance work, which involves the replacement of valves and filters and fixing leakages at the plant and the pipeline to Kimberley.

“One of the problems we experienced was with regards to the sand filtration. We have replaced the sand. The sand we were previously using was causing clogging and we had to replace it with silica sand. which we had to order from Brits in the North West.

“There was also further clogging in the filtration system, which was caused by the chemicals we were using. We have subsequently changed the chemicals.

“The sufficient operation of a water treatment plant relies on the basic processes, which involve the removal of suspended slides from the raw water. These processes involve coagulation and flocculation as well as the rapid gravity sand filtration (RGSF) process. These processes are heavily dependent on each other. If the coagulation and the flocculation are effective, but the clarification is not effective, the RGSF will not be effective.

“These processes work in uniform with each other. The challenge at Riverton is that none of these three treatment stages are effective and that has led to excessive suspended solids on the RGSF,” said Matlala.

He added that as part of addressing the problem, they had to rope in experts and technicians to assist.

“Part of the plan was to bring in a water treatment plant specialist. The specialist was in Kimberley for two days to make a thorough assessment of the plant. We also removed the mud from the filters and replaced some of the filters.

“We are currently conducting continuous water testing through two technicians who are giving us daily updates on the situation. We are no longer treating this matter on an ad hoc basis, but as if we are having a full-time crisis.”

Matlala said the aim of all the work is to ensure that residents have sufficient and quality water to consume.

“Our water levels have improved since work commenced. We will, however, continue with the water interruptions until such a stage where we can see the levels at the Newton Reservoir are satisfactory and we provide water without any interruptions.

“This problem will not be solved overnight, however, we are doing this in order to illuminate lengthy water interruptions. Residents need to bear in mind that critical work is being conducted during times when there are water interruptions.

“We have learnt our lesson, but we will not relax and will continue to treat the situation as if we are still facing a challenge. Over and above the plan, we will continue with a daily maintenance plan. We will do maintenance work holistically because we have realised that the maintenance of water plant sections cannot be conducted in isolation from the combined sections. The system has to be maintained holistically.

“The heightening of maintenance work will ensure that we identify and address any challenges that may arise faster. Through identifying the various challenges, it is evident that there is not a single solution to solve the many problems.”

The MM described the problem as “an emergency within an emergency” but said it is one that the municipality is prepared for.

“We had a press conference where the mayor announced the approval of our Budget Facility for Infrastructure (BFI). We already had an emergency plan for work that should be conducted at Riverton. However, this is an emergency within that emergency.

“However, we are fortunate as we have the funds to sort out our water problems. This plan is not completely separate from that of the BFI one but just requires more urgent attention. We are confident that over the next three to four years we will be in a more stable position.”

Matlala also assured residents that the quality of the water will not be compromised as work is being conducted.

“Our water is at 98% in terms of quality. We are aiming for 100% in order to achieve Blue Drop Status.

“Municipalities have to also address issues such as water wastage, which is what part of this plan will address. With all the work we are doing, we will be able to reduce water losses through the replacement of valves and filters. Fixing leaking valves on the filter gallery can improve losses by 1%. Fixing the de-sludging on the clarifiers and reducing the sludge carry over to the filters can result in a further 5% reduction in losses,” Matlala concluded.

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