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Water plan hits a snag

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A mysterious source of water prevented the pipe from drying out to allow the repair work to commence

EYE ON PROCEEDINGS: Municipal manager, Goolam Akharwaray, inspecting the site at the Mental Hospital. Picture: Soraya Crowie

BY THE time of going to print last night, there was still no certainty whether water would be restored to the city this morning.

While work at the Riverton Purification Plant went according to plan and was completed on schedule, with the filtration process up and running by yesterday afternoon, an unexpected hiccup occurred with the repair of a leak on the main line from Riverton to Kimberley.

A mysterious source of water prevented the pipe from drying out to allow the repair work to commence.

Municipal manager, Goolam Akharwaray, explained that an unestablished backflow of water, close to the Kimberley mental health hospital, had delayed the upgrading work on the main line.

“We are ready to pump from Riverton to the Newton Reservoir as all 16 sites, which were upgraded over the weekend, have been completed,” Akharwaray said.

The leak on the main line close to the mental hospital, however, proved to be a spanner in the works and delayed the pumping of water to Kimberley.

By last night, emergency meetings were being held to see if there was some way that this section of the pipeline could be isolated so that the pumping of water to Newton could continue, while the issue was sorted out.

“Repair work on the line at the mental hospital was delayed due to water that is flooding the site,” Akharwaray confirmed.

The origin of the water, however, was still a mystery yesterday and municipal spokesperson, Sello Matsie, said an investigation would be launched.

“There has been no pumping of water from Riverton to the Newton Reservoir since Friday and the pipe is completely dry at the other two sites where work was undertaken, namely at 3 SAI and Superstone. We are also not pumping from the Newton Reservoir to the city so technically there should be no water in the system, unless this site is being fed directly from the Newton Reservoir via a line that the municipality is not aware of.”

Matsie said that it had also been noted that a water storage reservoir at the mental hospital had gone down about 1.5m over the weekend. “It appears that this water is feeding a supply somewhere.”

Akharwaray also confirmed that at this stage the municipality would need to investigate where the backflow was originating from “as we have switched off all our systems”.

By last night, there was still a trickle of water in the pipe at the mental hospital.

“It takes about three hours to cut the pipe so that the damaged section can be removed and a further two hours to connect the new section. However, due to the dangers involved, the cutting of the pipe can only be done during the day when there is light,” Matsie added last night.

“We are meeting now to see if we can make a plan so that water can still be provided to the city by the morning. We are ready to start pumping and are just being held up by this pipe.”

He emphasised, however, that the operation had gone well.

“The biggest challenge, which involved the connection of the new pumps at Riverton, has been completed and we are happy with the progress. If a problem was encountered here, we wouldn’t have been able to extract water from the river, which would have been a major challenge.”

“The unexpected water at this site was the only real problem we had throughout the entire operation,” Matsie said.

The real success of the operation will be determined once the water supply has been restored and pressure has been built up in the system.

“One of the risks we are aware of is that some of the pipes might burst due to the water pressure once the water is switched back on. There are teams on standby to handle these challenges,” Akharwaray acknowledged.

He added that the upgrading of the pipe work would ultimately save the city water.

“We have to inconvenience people now in order to curb future leakages and water wastage. The city will in future save about five percent of water,” he said.