Coast KZN

21 Aug 2014

Umgeni Water defends desalination plant

Jodi van Wyk (North Coast Courier)

The proposed site, photo taken from inside the King Shaka Estate.

Service provider claims brine discharge will not harm marine life.

Umgeni Water has moved to allay fears over the proposed construction of a seawater desalination plant on the North Coast.

Last week the Courier spoke to a group of residents who are fiercely opposed to the proposed plant in Desainager (Residents against desalination plant, Courier, August 15). Umgeni Water is currently investigating the feasibility of two 150 megalitre seawater desalination plants, positioned on the North and South Coasts of KZN.

The Desainager plant would supply 75Ml/d of potable water south to eThekwini Metro and 75Ml/d north to the Ilembe district.

Umgeni Water corporate stakeholder manager Shami Harichunder said since the proposed site lies 3,5km north of the Mdloti estuary and 6,5km south of the Tongati estuary, negligible impacts can be expected.

He said five possible sites between Durban and Ballito were studied between 2010 and 2011.

“The Tongaat site offered limited negative ecological impacts on the present habitat.”

Since the proposed plant is situated just landward of the dune cordon, brine discharge would not impact the marine life majorly.

“The plant would be served by intake and brine outfall pipelines which would be excavated through the rock formations beneath the frontal dune and the beach.”

Harichunder acknowledged concerns about noise and air pollution and damaging the aesthetic beauty along the M4.

“An independent noise specialist study will be undertaken as part of the EIA process. In general, the desalination plant does not use chemicals that are highly volatile or generate unpleasant odours. There will be no release of corrosive agents to the atmosphere.

“An independent visual assessment study will be also be undertaken, to focus on measures to reduce negative aspects, compensatory measures to offset negative aspects, and enhancement of positive aspects.

“The plant could be hidden from the community using berms and in some cases, grassing the tops of the buildings.”

The EIA will also look into energy recovery mechanisms to reduce a potentially high carbon footprint.

“One of the key focus areas is addressing the potable water supply backlogs in terms of executing water infrastructure projects. Even though the area may be considered as a high rainfall area, South Africa’s fresh water resources are a scarce and limited resource.”

Studies undertaken by Umgeni Water show that the demand for the broader region, not just Ilembe, will exceed supply soon if a viable option is not developed.

If all goes according to plan the plant could be constructed within the next five years.

Technical feasibility is almost complete and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is underway.

Umgeni Water said they will soon be holding public meetings, where all the details will be discussed with the residents.