Thieves tar­get Athlone Power Sta­tion pip­ing

They left be­hind a ‘shop­ping list’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HE­LEN BAM­FORD

BRAZEN thieves have stripped the derelict Athlone Power Sta­tion of tons of cop­per pip­ing and rolls of elec­tri­cal ca­bling while the City of Cape Town de­cides on the fu­ture of the site.

In the lat­est case, thieves, who ap­peared to have been in­ter­rupted, left be­hind a “shop­ping list” con­tain­ing de­tails of how much a scrap­yard in Langa would pay for 10kg of cop­per wire.

The sta­tion, which has not gen­er­ated power since 2003, is in a state of dis­re­pair, with large sec­tions sealed off.

Week­end Ar­gus has learnt that the skele­ton staff on site, who are mostly in­volved with main­te­nance, have so lit­tle to do that they spend their days watch­ing tele­vi­sion, nap­ping, or hav­ing the odd braai.

Var­i­ous sce­nar­ios have been put for­ward by the city about the site’s fu­ture, which is likely to in­volve de­mol­ish­ing the cool­ing tow­ers to make way for hous­ing and busi­nesses.

Pi­eter van Dalen, the MP who used to head up the city’s Cop­per­heads – a spe­cial team tasked to crack down on ca­ble theft – said he went to the power sta­tion a few months ago at night and drove around un­de­tected.

The se­cu­rity lights were dead and there were sev­eral ac­cess holes in the fence.

“I got there about 8pm and there was no one at the gate. It was only when I was about a kilo­me­tre down the road that a se­cu­rity guard came and asked what I was do­ing.”

Van Dalen said that even though the power sta­tion wasn’t op­er­at­ing, the area was the heart of the power net­work.

“I was told that the ca­bles from the hy­dro sta­tions at Steen­bras and Palmiet came through Athlone.”

Gary Peters, a se­nior tech­ni­cian on the gas tur­bine sec­tion, which still op­er­ates dur­ing peak times, said thieves tar­geted any­thing they could sell as scrap.

On one oc­ca­sion thieves dug trenches around the perime­ter of the power sta­tion and ripped out ca­bles used for the se­cu­rity lights.

They even made off with tele­phone poles stored at the back of the prop­erty.

“The lo­cal school called to tell us thieves were cart­ing off the poles one by one.”

Peters said the sit­u­a­tion had im­proved some­what when se­cu­rity beams were erected.

Coun­cil­lor Brian Watkyns, chair­man of the City of Cape Town’s plan­ning and en­vi­ron­ment port­fo­lio com­mit­tee, said he had raised the is­sue of thefts in the coun­cil a few months ago but didn’t have ex­act fig­ures on how wide­spread it was.

The city’s di­rec­tor of elec­tri­cal ser­vices, Les Re­con­tre, said the thefts from the site had not had an im­pact on elec­tric­ity sup­ply, be­cause the power sta­tion was not op­er­a­tional.

“We do sus­pect there have been thefts, but not of huge bits of equip­ment. It is dif­fi­cult to quan­tify be­cause the equip­ment is not in use.”

Re­con­tre de­nied that staff were sit­ting around do­ing noth­ing. Most of them were near re­tire­ment age, and once they re­tired the city would prob­a­bly put in au­to­mated sys­tems.

EASY AC­CESS: There are plenty of holes in the fences around the power sta­tion.

DERELICT: The old boiler room at the Athlone Power Sta­tion is sealed up and slowly rust­ing. Some of the old ma­chin­ery has been van­dalised or stolen.

PIC­TURES: SAM CLARK

KEEP OUT: The land­mark Athlone cool­ing tow­ers which face de­mo­li­tion are sealed off from the rest of the site and ac­cess is for­bid­den. But de­spite in­creased se­cu­rity, cop­per thieves have made off with ca­bles worth thou­sands of rands.

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