Water disruption averted at Erongo desalination

19 Feb 2017 10:40am
WLOTZKASBAKEN, 19 FEB (NAMPA) – Timely detection and response to the blocked water filtering membranes at Erongo desalination plant avoided a potential disaster at uranium mines.
Nampa learnt Thursday that water supply from the Areva Desalination Plant at Wlotzkasbaken was disconnected on 31 January due to a bacteria blockage in the reverse osmosis membranes.
All six processing units were removed in order to clean the membranes and restore water supply.
Plant Manager, Anthony Kostopoulus from AVENG Water Treatment told Nampa the process to clean the membranes using chemicals took two weeks.
The water supply to Langer Heinrich Uranium mine, Rössing and Swakop Uranium’s Husab mine was then restored on Thursday evening.
Kostopoulus said this was the first ever bacteria growth they had experienced, which could cause serious implications to the plant if not detected on time.
He said a computerised monitoring system allowed them to immediately pick up the bacteria but it also helped detect other faults in the processing units.
The plant manager said this responsibility was tough because natural bacteria growth from the sea could not be stopped and could block the membranes any time.
“Had production not been cut back, the potential of destroying the membranes would have caused severe water shortages for extended periods.”
He said if membranes are damaged, replacing them could take about six months without water supply to clients.
“AVENG Water sincerely regrets any inconveniences caused as a result of this event and has put further preventative measures in place to monitor and control future disruptions of this nature,” said Kostopoulus.
Approached for comment on Thursday, Managing Director of Rössing Uranium Werner Duvenhage confirmed they experienced water supply disruptions and had to halt some operations for a few days.
He could however, not get into the details due to limited time.
Swakop Uranium Vice-President of Human Resources and Business Support, Percy McCallum on Friday said they did not experience water shortages as a result.
This is because they are still not at a stage where they use large volumes of water, even although the mine has started production.
Questions sent to Bernadette Bock from Langer Heinrich’s communication department on Friday were not be responded to on time.