Coast KZN

11 Feb 2016

R3.7m berm collapses

Zimasa Mgwili


A portion of the very expensive structure has been washed away.

Nearly R4-million might have been ‘salted’ away with the emergency berm built across the Mzimkhulu river in November now breached, virtually after the first heavy rains.

Coupled with that, the Herald has had several calls this week from Shelly Beach and Oslo Beach residents in particular complaining again of no supply or ‘brown water’ flowing from taps.

Ugu officials and the construction company proudly posed for photographs after the berm was built in record time after the coast woke up one morning late last year to find salt water flowing from its taps.

To refresh fading memories, there was near panic for two weeks as everyone rushed to buy bottled water or queued at Ugu’s strategically placed fresh water tanks. Business people also rallied to provide drinking water to those who could not afford to pay.

The berm – hastily built at a cost of R3.7-million – worked and held back the salty seawater that had crept about 10km upstream to the pump station. The river mouth was closed and there was no rain in the catchment area to push the salt water downstream.

Authorities argue that the berm was only meant to be a ‘temporary solution’ anyway, but the cost raised a few eyebrows.

Ugu spokesman France Zama said Ugu was doing everything in its  power to comply with South African National Drinking Standards (SANDS 241).

Regarding the berm, he said: “Following the minor erosion of the berm due to recent rains, communities are assured that this will have no negative effect in the normal supply of clean and fresh water.”

He said the erosion was a natural occurrence that was expected as a result of rain within the Mzimkhulu catchment in the Drakensberg.

“The rains have yielded positives, ensuring a satisfactory flow of the Mzimkhulu river into the sea. The river levels have risen to above the berm and are not cause for concern at this point. There is also no contamination of salt water into our system and communities can still enjoy fresh water.”

Thanks to the rain, the municipality had managed to fill the off-channel storage dam to more than 40 percent, which could be used as a buffer if necessary.

“We will continue to monitor the berm and, once the river level has dropped, we will estimate the erosion and repair where necessary,” he said.

Meanwhile, the drought is still very much a factor and residents are warned that there is a R4 000 fine for blatantly wasting water.

Filling pools, irrigation systems and washing cars with hoses are some of the worst offences and homeowners are urged to blow the whistle on anyone they see transgressing.


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