Seawater flows from Port Shepstone taps – Why did Ugu municipality not prepare for this?

tapThousands of residents and holidaymakers on the South Coast woke up to undrinkable salty tap water on Monday as the drought tightened its grip around the province.

The towns and resorts affected by salty tap water include Port Shepstone, Margate and Hibberdene and inland to Bhoboyi. Most local shops had run out of five-litre bottled water stocks before lunch-time as customers raced to stock up.

Lungi Cele, the water services general manager of the Ugu District Municipality, said tap water was likely to remain salty until next Friday while an emergency sand berm was built across the uMzimkulu River to prevent saline water entering the municipal water supply.

She explained that the main water reservoir inland of Port Shepstone had run dry last week, forcing the municipality to pump water from the river. But because of the lack of rain, salty water from the Umzimkulu estuary had moved nearly 10km upstream to the point where water was being pumped from the river to the Bhoboyi treatment works.

While the municipal water was treated with chlorine and contained no traces of harmful bacteria, the treatment process could not remove the salt.

“You can drink it – but we are not recommending it. I tried it. It tastes like seawater,” said Cele.

Sakkie Coetzee, manager of the Margate Sands Beach Resort, said he had managed to buy just over 70 five-litre bottles of fresh water early on Monday.

“We have enough drinking water for our guests tonight (Monday), but I will have to reassess the situation in the morning,” he said.

Jean Whittaker of the Mdoni House guest lodge at Port Shepstone was not so lucky.

“I only managed to get one five-litre bottle and I have 22 people to look after. Now the shops are sold out of bottled water, but we will have to make a plan somehow.”

Dawn Nel of the Tweni Waterfront Guest Lodge said the tap water could still be used for showering, but because it was so salty it was difficult to get enough lather from soap.

“My daughter has been running around trying to find fresh water for her baby’s milk powder formula.”

Wayne Berman, the manager of the Harbour View Super Spar in Port Shepstone, said he managed to get three truckloads of bottled water on Monday, but it had quickly sold out.

The shop was now selling purified reservoir water at R1.50 a litre and customers were still queuing for it late on Monday.

Cele said that with just 28 water tankers, the Ugu District Municipality was battling to supply fresh water to the 30 000 affected households between Hibberdene and Ramsgate. Four major hospitals would get priority supplies

The municipality was getting emergency fresh water supplies via the Mtamvuna water treatment works near Port Edward. But this facility was battling to produce enough water to meet the extra demand from the Port Shepstone region.

As an emergency measure, Ugu had employed contractors to block off the uMzimkulu River about 10km upstream to prevent any further intrusion of saline water.

Once the berm was complete, river water would be pumped into the Bhoboyi reservoir to replenish the municipal water supply.

The municipality had also breached the river mouth in an attempt to drain out saline water near the estuary, but the mouth kept closing because of low water volumes.

“During this period, communities residing between Hibberdene and Ramsgate will be subjected to water with salt content from their taps.

“But the municipality will continuously monitor the water situation in an effort to ensure that water quality standard is not compromised,” the municipality said.

Some high-lying areas inland, including Gamalakhe and Murchison, would have no tap water at all because of high demand on the system.

Municipal authorities on the North coast are to meet National Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on Wednesday to discuss emergency water supply plans in the iLembe District Municipality, which includes Ballito, Salt Rock, Sheffield Beach and Zimbali.

Ilembe mayor Welcome Ndabe warned that there was just 120 days’ supply of water left as the level of Hazelmere Dam continued to drop.

‘The problem is, we do not have enough water tankers. To date iLembe has spent more than R15 million on hiring water tankers.

‘This is costing us R6 000 a day for one water tanker. We are looking at a budget of no less than R300 million to buy our own,’ Ndabe said.

He said the municipality was also getting some water from Mandeni, but there were indications that the uThukela River was ‘steadily running dry’.

‘We are in the process of drilling boreholes where there is groundwater and doing tests to see if the water is fit for human consumption. Should it not be potable then we will look into purchasing treatment plants to avoid our people getting diseases and the like.

‘As things stand, iLembe District Municipality has enough water for about 120 days. It doesn’t look like the weather is about to change, so it is important that we save the little that we have to survive,’ he said.

Source:The Mercury- Tony Carniehttp://beta.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/salty-tap-water-for-south-coast-towns-1939609

WATER CHAOS: Compensation – Don’t be silent!

Clean water supply and drainage of sewage is a service we pay. We have an agreement with the local water company – we pay their charges and expect them to carry out their service in accordance with the terms of their agreement with us (and additional requirement the law places on them). If something goes wrong with these services the disruption of our lives can be significant.

If you face a problem – whether it is over the charges or the service provided the first step is to contact their customer service help-line. If that does not resolve matters to your satisfaction, then you may find a formal complaint procedure. If that does not resolve the dispute, then you may have no option but to take matters further. Whether they will consider mediation or force you to take legal action or small claims service should be able to help you.

Water and sewage disputes

Sewage: If your property has been damaged by sewage you may be entitled to compensation to make good the damage or harm caused.

This would be through a claim against the Director General of Water Services because the water company responsible were negligent by failing to provide and maintain effective drainage. By not maintaining the drains resulting in overflowing sewage they fail in their legal duty of care to the people affected.

Poor water quality: The water company is responsible for the supply of water (up to the point that it connects with your pipes). If you or a visitor to your home becomes ill due to poor water quality being supplied, you should be entitled to compensation. This is usually a claim that the water company were negligent in failing to supply water of a reasonable quality – implying they should know that people drinking it might become ill.

Flooding: Where a water authority is responsible for flooding to your home, you might be entitled to compensation.

Proper water supply and drainage: Where you are a customer of a water company you have a contract with them. In exchange for you paying their charges they must provide a reasonable service. If the service is not reasonable (for example not maintaining the drains or not supplying good quality water) they have breached the terms of the contract. You have the right to demand it be put right and that they pay compensation for your losses and expenses.

What do you have to prove to bring a claim?

1: What damage or harm you have suffered:

This is best shown with photos and a detailed explanation (with relevant dates). Perhaps also collect statements (letters or emails) from other neighbours further providing details of the problems such as overflowing sewage.
2: Why it is the fault of the water company or authority:

Sometimes it will not be possible to say what they have done wrong, In which case you can argue that the damage would not have happened ‘but for’ the water company failing to meet it’s standards and their duty of care owed to you

Sometimes you will have to spend some money on getting an expert’s report to confirm it was the water company’s fault, such as an independent test on the quality of the water supply.

Photos may also support your claim – such as photos of blocked mains drains

3: If you have suffered losses and expenses you will need to show they were caused by the water company and that the amount you are claiming back is reasonable:

  • Photos of damaged property
  • Receipts to prove the cost of repairs or replacements
  • With injury and ill health, make sure you have seen your GP or hospital – so there is an independent record of your medical examination.

Basic services should be the responsibility of the government to plan and warn ahead of time.

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