Thieves target Athlone Power Station piping
They left behind a ‘shopping list’
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.
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.