Sewerage pump stations at South Africa’s largest cities risk overflowing if load shedding continues.

The cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, and Cape Town all confirmed that their sewerage network have constrained by load shedding, and that there are overflow risks if it should continue.

Eskom implemented seven days of Stage 4 electricity rationing last week, which left up to 20% of South Africans without power. Despite a full day without blackouts on Sunday, and the no further load shedding expected this week, the utility warned that its  “system continues to be vulnerable”.

It is anticipated that rolling blackouts will continue the next coming few months as the power utility struggle to meet demand, even before the peak winter power season hits.

City of Ekhuhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe said it had already experienced “spillages” at five small pump stations due to load shedding.

Most of the city’s large pump stations have generators and are unaffected by load shedding, Gadebe told Business Insider South Africa.

Nthatisi Modingoane, City of Johannesburg spokesperson, said load shedding has a “disastrous” effect on the city’s infrastructure.

“Rebooting the power grids is to the detriment of already aged infrastructure and will lead to a failure risk of said infrastructure,” Modingoane said.

There is a future possibility of wastewater treatment plants being affected by load shedding, he said, especially if infrastructure gets damaged by ongoing load shedding.

“But currently we are still able to power all critical areas of the plants with alternative power supply to continue operating.”

In Tshwane, spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said load shedding is likely to affect the city’s sewer system.

“Provision of water supply would also be affected in instances where we have to pump water to our reservoirs as not all of them have generators.”

City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for water and waste services, Xanthea Limberg, said smaller sewer pumps are most at risk as larger pumps were fitted with generators after load shedding in 2014.

Limberg said the smaller pump stations are, however, fitted with early warning telemetric alarm systems which will assist officials in preventing or minimising overflows.

She said when the telemetric alarms go off, city officials will install mobile generators to power pumps.

“Although with severe load shedding, i.e. large areas without power, it might not be logistically possible to prevent overflows entirely.”

“The operational teams will [then] do their utmost to contain and clean up such flows.”

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