Taps run dry for fourth day in Durban Covid-19 hotspot

11 January 2021 - 10:33
Chatsworth, south of Durban, has been without water for four days as a result of a pump malfunctioning. Stock photo.
Chatsworth, south of Durban, has been without water for four days as a result of a pump malfunctioning. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Weerapat Kiatdumrong

Hundreds of Chatsworth households woke to dry taps on Monday as technicians attempted to repair a water pump in Northdene.

A Covid-19 hotspot, Chatsworth has been without water for four days.

The community has been largely relying on civil society and neighbouring communities for water and claim that municipal water tankers have not been operating in all parts of the area.

The eThekwini municipality said on Sunday evening that the water shortage was a result of an “unexpected malfunctioning of a pump” in Northdene.

“A contractor has been appointed with speed to replace the pump and is currently on site. Welders are also on site to bypass a normal main water supply pipe,” the municipality said in a post on Facebook. 

“This will enable the city to source water from an alternative supply, which is Hocking Place reservoir. This reservoir will enable the city to supply most areas that are affected.”

It said 94 water tankers were operating in the area.

“Residents are implored to maintain social distancing when they are queuing for water supplied by water tankers. Teams are promising to have water restored by tomorrow [Monday] if everything goes according to plan.”

CITY WORKING UNCEASINGLY TO RESTORE WATER IN WEST AND SOUTHERN PARTS OF THE CITY The eThekwini Municipality sincerely...

Posted by EThekwini Municipality on Sunday, January 10, 2021

African Democratic Change president Visvin Reddy said the water crisis was a double tragedy for Chatsworth residents.

“They are forced to stay at home because of the Covid-19 level 3 lockdown regulations and now have to endure trying to survive with no water.

“Anger is mounting and people from all areas, including the formal and informal ones, are united in directing their anger at the municipality.

“As ratepayers and citizens of the city they have again become victims of an inefficient, irresponsible and reckless local government that has failed them.

“As a former councillor in eThekwini and as the former chairman of water, I am aware that a contract exists where companies are appointed to supply water tankers in times of crisis. In the case of Chatsworth, only two tankers were supplied per ward. Each ward has about 4,000 households and the number of tankers is totally inadequate,” he said.

DA eThekwini caucus leader Nicole Graham said the water crisis was “an avoidable disaster for many reasons”.

“Over the past few years, DA councillors have been convening regular meetings with eThekwini water and sanitation officials to try to address the city’s growing water issues. It has been clear that many pump stations were not in a good state and that imminent failure was possible at a number of sites. Despite this, it is clear that maintenance was not done and that spares or replacements were not procured.

“A tender notice was put out to provide electrical repairs to two of the three pumps at Northdene in September 2020. The DA has been informed that this was all completed by October 21, with the intention of using urgent procurement regulations to complete the work. Apparently, against the advice of legal, finance and water and sanitation employees, the accounting officer refused to sign this off,” she said.

She explained that this led to the normal, lengthy tender process and eventually the pump station failed.

“The net result is an entirely avoidable humanitarian crisis - hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people without water in a declared Covid-19 hotspot zone,” Graham said.

On Sunday evening, Graham managed to contact acting city manager Sipho Cele.

“The component needed to modify the temporary pump has been sourced and the team at Northdene are attempting to complete the repair. There is no time frame as additional problems may be encountered when the reservoir comes online, but it is looking more promising.

“They are also attempting to backfill some of the reservoirs from the Tshelinyama reservoir so they can start to fill independently of the pump station,” she said.

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