13 February 2019

Namibia Dairies Oil Spill Shuts City Water Works

The oil spill at the Namibia Dairies plant in Avis has resulted in the City of Windhoek shutting down two water treatment plants.

Namibia Dairies announced the oil spill on 3 February, and the city moved in to shut the Gammams wastewater treatment plant and the Goreangab water reclamation plant, fearing contamination.

Windhoek chief executive officer Robert Kahimise told the media yesterday that the oil-contaminated water flooded the low-lying areas of the Gammams Wastewater Plant, and eventually found its way to Goreangab Dam.

"It is important to re-emphasise that no water reclamation is currently taking place, and thus (there is) no contamination of the city's potable water as well as the aquifer," he stated.

Kahimise said the current water supply problems experienced in some parts of Windhoek, especially in Katutura, are not as a result of the oil spill nor the shutdown of the reclamation plant, but because of pipe bursts.

The shutdown of both plants was crucial as a precaution not to pollute the biological processes required to produce potable water, he added.

In a statement yesterday, the city said they had put up a response team comprising officials from Namibia Dairies and the City of Windhoek with the aim of strengthening the efforts to contain and clean up the oil spill.

"To reduce further pollution of the environment, an oil spill expert from South Africa estimated that it would cost around N$32 million to rehabilitate and clean the affected reticulation system within two months," Kahimise noted.

He confirmed that the closure of the two plants had forced the city to buy 25% of its water directly from NamWater after the Windhoek Goreangab Operating Company (Wingoc) stopped supply operations because of the spillage.

Wingoc operates the water reclamation plant, and supplies the city with 25% of its water, which is 18 000 cubic metres of water per day.

However, the switch to NamWater to fill the 25% supply gap left by the closure of the reclamation plant will come at an extra cost for the city, as the water utility charges N$6 more per cubic metre than Wingoc, the city said.

The city currently pays N$108 000 daily to NamWater for the additional 18 000 cubic metres.

The impact assessment done by the city indicated that fish in the maturation ponds at Gammams are dying due to a lack of oxygen, and the operations of two contractors at Gammams to produce renewable energy and fertiliser have likewise been stopped.

The city said the cleaning of the contaminated section of the Gammams plant has started, and might be completed by 17 February. Once the Gammams plant is operational and in full production, the water reclamation plant will then begin to pump water that is safe for consumption.

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