Three Cape Town water reservoirs, as well as two treatment plants, have been found to be not fully compliant with specifications for small to medium chlorination plants, raising concerns about the possible effects on residents who use potable water.

The Cape Times received information that the Molteno, Newlands, Blackhealth, Wynberg reservoirs and the Helderberg and Atlantis water treatment plants do not conform to the South African National Standard (SANS) specifications for the disinfection of water.

Xanthea Limberg, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy told IOL that the although the sites need some improvement, they do not compromise the safety of the public.

As the City uses chlorine to clean potable water, the construction and maintenance of the confined areas where the storage or cleaning is done is required to comply with certain specifications to ensure operational safety – this includes the maintenance of equipment and the order of emergency action plans.

Chlorine is toxic when inhaled and can cause a life-threatening accumulation of fluid in the lungs, as well as severe irritation of the nose and throat.

As many of the plants are situated near residential areas, one of the biggest current concerns is the inability of the City to contain any chlorine gas leaks should they occur.

A gas leak has occurred previously at the Atlantis site in 2016, leading to the loss of 55kg of chlorine gas as well as a minor injury.

Limberg said the City does comply with most of the requirements of the SANS, and has made provisions on its capital budget to implement improvements in the coming financial year to achieve full compliance.

“Two chlorine audits are conducted annually by the supplier of chlorine gas, who is deemed an expert on the subject. The supplier also provides ongoing chlorine-handling training for all staff associated with chlorine activities,” Limberg said.

The City tries to have air-tight chlorine dosing rooms, and those facilities that don’t have chlorine gas scrubbers have been identified for upgrades on the capital budget, she added.

The City’s chlorine installations are fitted with gas sensors which will trigger an alarm in the event of a chlorine leak. SMS notifications are automatically sent immediately to the site management staff. Sound alarms and red flashing lights are set off to inform operating staff (on shift 24 hours of the day) of any leaks. Emergency contact numbers are attached to all chlorine room doors for a HAZMAT response team to respond to any emergencies that cannot be dealt with by City staff. Staff were, however, trained and equipped to handle minor leaks, and disaster risk management protocols were in place to protect the public if necessary, Limberg said.

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