02 June 2022

Veolia supports KZN clients and municipality with flood damage recovery

Submitted by CubicICE (PTY) Ltd
Veolia supports KZN clients and municipality with flood damage recovery

Following the April 2022 floods in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Veolia Services Southern Africa has supported its clients in the region (including Toyota and Mondi), with clean-up services, repairs and maintenance. It has also assisted its Public Partner, the eThekwini Municipality of Durban, in addressing the restoration of wastewater discharge management.

“The burden on the eThekwini Municipality is huge and their resources are constrained. The Municipality sees water supply as their top priority – understandably so. This is where Veolia can assist as we have the expertise in water and wastewater management,” comments Miles Murray, Director, Business Development, Veolia Services Southern Africa (VSSA).

Identifying faults to restore operations at the DWR plant

Veolia operates and maintains the Durban Water Recycling Plant (DWR), on behalf of the City of eThekwini. Constructed in 2000, the plant recycles wastewater equivalent to generation from about 220 000 households in the City without the need for additional infrastructure spending. 

As a result of the floods, the plant was affected by a week-long power outage, and damage to the feed supply infrastructure from the Umlaas River/ Chatsworth catchment area. “The extreme weather events caused severe damages and blockages to the supply network. We observed a reduction in feed water from about 25 000 m3/day to 4800 m3/day as of 14 April 2022. Typical industrial reclaimed water consumption is about 14 000 m3/day,” says Siva Chetty, Regional Services Manager for VSSA in Kwa-Zulu Natal. In addition, the plant faced reduced sewage flows (which in turn, compromised the plant’s biological systems). These issues resulted in an increased risk of environmental pollution and health risks for the surrounding communities. 

To address these issues and restore adequate flows to DWR, Veolia consulted to the eThekwini Municipality, to survey damages to the catchment system. It identified three acute failure points. The first, in Chatsworth Silverglen, where a section of 660 mm-diameter steel line washed away. “The resultant spillage polluted the local river and environment, and caused reduced feed flow to DWR. Veolia expended its resources to fix this line,” says Chetty. Veolia engaged the services of Multiple Engineering contractors (Pty) Ltd to repair the pipe failures at two points in the Chatsworth feed line. “This intervention resulted in flow to DWR increasing from 4 Ml/day to 12 Ml/day,” adds Chetty.

The second catchment system fault was the damage to the sewage transfer pipeline from Umlaas to DWR. This also included wash-away of the road system. The third was a blockage on the Chatsworth line, near RK Khan hospital. 

In both these cases, Veolia reported the failures to the eThekwini Municipality. In the case of the pipe blockage, the Municipality engaged its network team to unblock the pipeline to restore flows into the pipe instead of polluting the river course. “The Umlaas feeder fault is complex. Veolia has advised that to address this, the Municipality will require a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach, involving roads, stormwater systems, land reinstatement, river course management and social involvement. Veolia will provide strategic level input,” explains Chetty.

Veolia gets in on mop-up operations

Most of Veolia’s clients in KZN were flooded (including Mondi, Toyota, Simba and MSSL), with extensive damage to infrastructure and plant equipment. “Mondi and SAPREF – both being DWR offtake partners - have declared Force Majeure as a consequence of the unprecedented flooding and damages to their respective infrastructures,” notes Murray. 

While each client is undertaking repairs, Veolia has supported the process. “We supplied reclaimed water to facilitate mopping up. And the Veolia Mondi team of 17 personnel assisted with cleaning up and repairs. Our maintenance and electrical teams also assisted in assessing damage to motors and equipment,” states Murray. 

Contributing to a more resilient disaster management approach

Murray believes that a renewed focus on disaster management and restoration planning is essential in preventing a repeat of this disaster. With a global knowledge base, Veolia is well-positioned to support and address the emerging challenges of climate change-induced disasters and risks. “For example, Veolia has technology which can be rapidly deployed to produce drinking water from dams, rivers or groundwater,” explains Murray. 

In addition, the company is knowledgeable in stormwater management that employs ecologically friendly practices, such as creating wetlands in flood plains and in storm water collection points. Veolia is able to advise authorities on the various aspects of the water, waste and energy cycles and how to intervene in sustainable ways. “Most importantly, Veolia's expertise lies in its ability to understand the root cause of a problem and to develop and implement innovative, workable and practical solutions,” adds Murray.

Equipped with these specialist capabilities, Veolia has committed to promoting the concept of disaster planning which includes engagement with stakeholders to identify risks and map the interventions to address them. “Veolia will also promote its vision for ecological transformation within the framework of multi-faceted performance. In the context of flood risk management, it will involve understanding weather warnings and communicating risk management strategies to avert risk failure,” concludes Murray.

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