Transnet will start up a R70m water plant in Saldanha Bay
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Transnet will start up a R70m water plant in Saldanha Bay

Cape Town – Transnet will start up a controversial R70m water plant in Saldanha in May, with which it plans to control the red iron-ore dust at its terminal.

But great unhappiness over the potential impact of the plant on the bay prevails in Saldanha.

Jaco Kotze, who chairs the Langebaan Ratepayers and Residents’ Association, said that the approval process for the plant had been bulldozed through.

Unfortunately civil society had lost out against a major economic force such as Transnet, he said.

Residents were extremely unhappy about the situation. They had been told the impact would be minimal, but they did not care how minor it would be – there would be an impact on the bay, and this had not been tested.

He explained that they had given input to the environmental impact study and even appealed against the plant’s approval, but nothing had come of their efforts.

The reverse-osmosis plant would, according to Kotze, pump millions of litres of highly concentrated saltwater back into the bay every day.

Kotze said they were opposed not to the plant itself but to its location. From the outset they had insisted that the plant should be situated somewhere outside the bay area.

They were concerned about the effect on the environment of the highly concentrated saltwater being pumped back into the bay and the Langebaan lagoon – a Ramsar site enjoying international conservation status.

He explained that if the plant was situated outside the bay – where there was stronger wave action – ocean currents could wash away the high saltwater concentrate.

According to Karl Socikwa, the chief executive of Transnet Port Terminals, 36 000 kilolitres of potable water is being used a month to spray the iron ore from sprinkler cannons and control the dust.

This apparently becomes expensive in a water-scarce environment.

The new plant will provide 36 000 kilolitres a month and supplement the potable water currently being drawn from the municipality to wet down the ore.

It would enable the ore to be sprayed more frequently, Socikwa said.

On Tuesday afternoon Transnet issued a statement on the plant’s opening, saying that no negative environmental impact would be involved.


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