Amatola Water misses deadline to fix Makhanda’s water woes yet again

Upgrades to water treatment works more than six years behind schedule. New deadline is April 2024.

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Photo of people collecting water from a tanker

Makhanda residents collect water from a tanker. Photo: Loyiso Dyongman

  • For years residents of Makhanda have endured water outages.
  • Upgrades to a water treatment plant are six years behind schedule.
  • The latest completion date is April 2024, after a December 2023 deadline was missed.
  • Amatola Water has blamed the delays on the slow progress of the contractor. The contractor refused to comment.

Makhanda’s water woes are set to continue this year with Amatola Water missing its latest deadline. Amatola Water has announced that it expects to complete upgrades to the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works only at the end of April.

After the liquidation of one of the contractors, Mamlambo Construction, in 2022, December 2023 had been given as the date for completion.

The project started in 2015 and was meant to be finished by December 2017 for R102-million. The deadline keeps getting extended and the budget has ballooned to R393-million.

Increased pumping capacity is desperately needed if Makhanda’s residents are to see an end to years of water outages. Currently, there is only daytime supply.

Amatola Water is a state-run utility, with a legislated mandate to provide water to a large part of the Eastern Cape.

“The main reason for the incompleteness of the project is slow progress by the contractor, which the engineer is monitoring closely to ensure that the contractor remains on schedule,” said Amatola Water spokesperson Amanda Skritch.

Thabang Mokgatle from contractor Water and Wastewater Technology SA said “no comment”.

Skritch also said: “Regrettably, the ongoing water interruptions can be attributed to a series of challenges experienced in both the James Kleynhans and Waainek Water Treatment Works operations.”

She said a “key factor” was flooding at the Howieson’s Poort pump station, which supplies Waainek, in November 2023. This has meant the loss of eight of 18 megalitres per day.

“This unexpected event has had a profound effect on the ability to maintain regular water supply,” she said.

According to Councillor Geoff Embling (DA), “There was no operator on standby when a joint on the pump’s suction valve pushed out, causing the flooding.”

“The other factor is leaks that continue to be problematic, affecting the security of supply,” said Skritch.

Embling said the loss to leaks is “estimated by some to be in excess of 40% of the total supply”.

The James Kleynhans Treatment Works – situated on the east side of Makhanda – receives its water from the Orange and Fish rivers.

Embling said that the current maximum bulk water that can be supplied to Makhanda is about 12 megalitres per day from James Kleynhans and 6 megalitres per day from Howieson’s Poort.

He said the James Kleynhans upgrades are finally gaining momentum, and work done on the roof and electric controls for the new building housing the filter beds was completed over the holiday period.

If the upgrades go to plan and the new filter beds are ready for use in February, James Kleynhans will alone produce 20 megalitres per day, he said.

TOPICS:  Water

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