Talk of the Town - - FRONT PAGE - JON HOUZET

Con­cerned over bulk wa­ter and brine pipe­lines which are be­ing laid in Cannon Rocks, a res­i­dent has pressed the na­tional de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs (DEA) for a re­sponse.

Mar­cia Fargnoli first blew the whis­tle on the project in early Oc­to­ber, af­ter be­com­ing con­cerned about the de­struc­tion of nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion as the bulk wa­ter pipeline was be­ing laid, and prepa­ra­tions for an­other pipeline to carry brine from an in­creased ca­pac­ity re­verse os­mo­sis (RO) plant – which is still in the plan­ning stages – all with­out an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment be­ing done. The DEA con­firmed at the time that no coastal dis­charge per­mit had been granted for the brine pipeline, and chief direc­tor of com­pli­ance Son­ny­boy Bapela said DEA of­fi­cials would in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter as soon as they were done with an in­ter­na­tional ex­er­cise at sea with In­ter­pol.

TotT also sent queries to Nd­lambe Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, the ben­e­fi­ciary of the bulk wa­ter project, and af­ter TotT’s story was pub­lished, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for­warded a re­sponse to Fargnoli’s con­cerns from Louis Fourie of New­ground Projects, who said the con­tract was for the de­vel­op­ment of five pre-drilled bore­holes; in­stal­la­tion of 6,450m of pipe­lines within the road re­serves and ur­ban area (max­i­mum 160mm di­am­e­ter); in­stal­la­tion of a teleme­try sys­tem; and build­ing work at the wa­ter treat­ment works.

Fourie as­serted that Nd­lambe had been de­clared a drought dis­as­ter area which ne­ces­si­tated the de­vel­op­ment of ad­di­tional wa­ter sources.

“This project is there­fore con­sid­ered a pri­or­ity project,” he said.

As sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion, he at­tached a di­rec­tive from the re­gional man­ager of the Eastern Cape de­part­ment of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and tourism, Day­alan Govender, in July this year, list­ing Nd­lambe Mu­nic­i­pal­ity among seven lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties per­mit­ted to carry out drought emer­gency in­ter­ven­tion projects in terms of Sec­tion 30A of the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Act (Nema). How­ever, the only projects listed un­der Nd­lambe are for Port Al­fred and Alexan­dria, other than “re­pairs to ex­ist­ing wa­ter retic­u­la­tion in­fra­struc­ture” in “all towns”.

Fourie said the pipe­lines would be in­stalled in a road re­serve and within an ur­ban area, “which means the de­vel­op­ment is ex­cluded from re­quir­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal au­tho­ri­sa­tion in terms of this ac­tiv­ity”.

He ad­mit­ted that wa­teruse li­cences had not yet been granted, but that SRK Con­sult­ing had been ap­pointed to ap­ply for the li­cences. As for the RO plant, he said a ten­der was cur­rently un­der way that called for spe­cial­ist de­sali­na­tion con­trac­tors for the de­sign, sup­ply and in­stal­la­tion of a brack­ish wa­ter re­verse os­mo­sis (BWRO) plant.

He said there was al­ready an ex­ist­ing RO plant, but ac­knowl­edged that it would be ex­panded and ex­ceed the thresh­old to sup­ply an ad­di­tional 100m³ or more of treated wa­ter per day, and thus would re­quire en­vi­ron­men­tal au­tho­ri­sa­tion.

There was fur­ther cor­re­spon­dence be­tween Fargnoli and Fourie, in which Fargnoli said there should have been pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the project, com­plained about the lack of con­tact de­tails for the con­trac­tors, queried why pipe­lines were be­ing laid with­out any wa­ter use li­cence be­ing in place, and asked how a brine pipeline could be in­stalled be­fore con­trac­tors had even been hired for the RO plant, which also still had to go through a Nema process.

She dis­agreed with Fourie’s as­ser­tion that the pipeline did not re­quire en­vi­ron­men­tal au­tho­ri­sa­tion and pointed out that the cur­rent bulk wa­ter project for which the pipe­lines were be­ing built was not part of the drought emer­gency mea­sures listed for Nd­lambe.

“The area where the pipeline has been built so far has re­moved large amounts of in­dige­nous veg­e­ta­tion and much of it has not been in the set­tle­ment it­self. In the area be­tween Bok­nes and Cannon Rocks, the width of in­dige­nous veg­e­ta­tion re­moved was at least as wide as the road it­self,” Fargnoli said.

In her let­ter to the DEA, Fargnoli queried how Cannon Rocks could be con­sid­ered an ur­ban area.

“The place they have built the pipeline is be­tween two small towns, on one side sand dunes with thicket veg­e­ta­tion and for­est and on the other side cat­tle farms. They have built the pipeline past the road re­serve and into thick veg­e­ta­tion in ar­eas that are not ur­ban. They will con­tinue to build a wastew­a­ter pipeline with­out any per­mit for wastew­a­ter dis­charge that will be dumped into a na­tional park,” she wrote. “I think it is pre­sump­tu­ous that the com­pany is al­ready build­ing the pipe­lines with­out the ap­provals.”

Fargnoli said the de­part­ment of wa­ter af­fairs had al­ready con­ducted a site in­spec­tion and con­firmed that wa­ter use li­cences were not in place. She ap­pealed to the DEA to also con­duct a site in­spec­tion.

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