Wa­ter weir woes

Zululand Observer - Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Or­rin Singh

FEARS have been al­layed that a ma­jor dis­rup­tion at the Mh­lathuze weir last week could af­fect the city’s en­tire do­mes­tic and in­dus­trial wa­ter sup­ply.

This fol­lows an in­ci­dent late on Wed­nes­day evening when an un­der­ground spring forced large amounts of wa­ter up to the sur­face, col­laps­ing part of the bridge at the weir.

Ac­cord­ing to Mh­lathuze

Wa­ter, the un­der­ground dis­tur­bance, which they de­scribed as ‘a wa­ter seep­age’, was dis­cov­ered by con­trac­tors work­ing on al­ter­ations and ad­di­tions to the ex­ist­ing weir to im­prove its over­all ef­fi­ciency.

A widely cir­cu­lated video showed in­tense ac­tiv­ity, with the wa­ter burst­ing up­wards like a flash flood.

An emer­gency evac­u­a­tion plan was ini­ti­ated to en­sure no harm be­fell the work­ers and en­gi­neers on site.

In a state­ment, Mh­lathuze Wa­ter said prompt ac­tion, which in­cluded tem­po­rar­ily open­ing of the sluice gates to re­lease wa­ter pres­sure from up­stream which could other­wise have re­sulted in phys­i­cal dam­age to the weir struc­ture, was taken to en­sure no dam­age was done to the en­vi­ron­ment and that the sup­ply of wa­ter was not in­ter­rupted.

Emer­gency mea­sures in place to avoid wa­ter sup­ply in­ter­rup­tions

‘Mh­lathuze Wa­ter wants to re­as­sure its cus­tomers and the pub­lic that mea­sures are in place to en­sure that there are no in­ter­rup­tions to the wa­ter sup­ply while en­gi­neers work on iden­ti­fy­ing and re­pair­ing the source of the seep­age.

‘In the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod, Lake Nsezi is be­ing used to sup­ply wa­ter.

‘While the in­ci­dent does not pose any sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal threat, Mh­lathuze Wa­ter has taken all the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing work­ing closely with the na­tional Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs and the Depart­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion,’ the state­ment read.

Mh­lathuze Wa­ter Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ager, Siyabonga Ma­phu­mulo, said it was an­tic­i­pated that the pump sta­tion would be fully op­er­a­tional within a week.

‘Nei­ther plant, equip­ment nor hu­man lives were lost in the in­ci­dent. While one plant was tem­po­rar­ily sub­merged in wa­ter overnight, the process of re­mov­ing it has al­ready started,’ he said.

How­ever, ques­tions remain unan­swered as to whether the con­struc­tion work in progress above the weir had con­trib­uted to the in­ci­dent.

Wa­ter is pumped from the Mh­lathuze weir to Lake Nsezi from where it is retic­u­lated via the treat­ment plant.

When full, the lake holds a sup­ply of wa­ter that can last about 40 days with­out aug­men­ta­tion.

Thanks to the late rains which filled the city’s dams, which were al­most empty as a re­sult of the drought, there is no im­me­di­ate threat to wa­ter avail­abil­ity.

‘Be­ing in the wa­ter, weirs by na­ture are al­ways frag­ile and un­der stress, es­pe­cially since rivers are sub­ject to flood­ing,’ said one ex­pe­ri­enced en­gi­neer.

‘The Mh­lathuze weir is about 30 years old and is in con­stant need of mon­i­tor­ing and main­te­nance.

‘In­her­ent risks dur­ing any con­struc­tion work must be mit­i­gated.’

The Mh­lathuze River flows un­der the John Ross Park­way and into the Port of Richards Bay. Dam­age caused by the in­ci­dent can clearly be seen (cir­cled) at the Mh­lathuze weir, from where the river wa­ter is pumped to Lake Nsezi Bryce For­duce

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