Port Elizabeth of Yore: Linton Reservoir and Water Treatment Works

Another notable work in the history of the Port Elizabeth water supply was the construction by the contractor, Messrs Murray and Stewart, for whom my father worked for prior to WW1, of a service reservoir along Cape Road. This reservoir, capable of holding 5 million gallons of water (22 500 kL), was designed by William Ingham as the consulting engineer. The reservoir cost a total of £15 600.

This is an extract from the excellent book on water supply of Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, Streams of Life by David Raymer.

Main picture: Linton Admin Block

Linton Reservoir
Work on the reservoir commenced in 1923 and was completed on 16 October 1924. On 18 November 1924 the Mayor, Mr Archibald Linton, officially inaugurated the reservoir in the presence of Councillors and dignitaries. Water from the supply dams at the Van Stadens, Sand and Bulk Rivers was delivered into this new reservoir (named Linton Reservoir in honour of the Mayor) and then distributed to the higher areas of the town viz to Fort Nottingham Reservoir (Glendinningvale) and St George’s Reservoir.

Linton Water Treatment Works under construction in 1936

Linton Water Treatment Works
Water from the old storage dam on the Van Stadens River was passed through slow sand filters located on the downstream side of the dam, whilst pressure filters were used at the Sand and Bulk River Dams. Water from the new lower Van Stadens Dam received no treatment at the dam, but the water from all four storage dams was chlorinated upon arrival at the Linton Service Reservoir. Many complaints were received about the quality of the water and the City Engineer was requested by the Special Water Committee to investigate the cause of the complaints.

In his report dated 13 November 1934 Mr George Begg stated that it would be better to treat all the raw water from Upper Van Stadens, Van Stadens Gorge and the Sand and Bulk rivers at one central location in accordance with the latest technology rather than at each source and at the Linton reservoir. In addition the filtration was not sufficient to remove the dark colour from the water which is a common characteristic of the Cape’s coastal waters. In 1935 Council decided to implement the recommendations in the report. At that time Council had already entered into a contract for the supply of filters with Messrs Hubert Davies and Co for £2 260 for the Van Stadens Gorge Dam. The contract was immediately cancelled and the contractor reimbursed for his expenses to date. The abandoned tanks and derelict pipework fittings are still visible today.

Filtered water at the Filtration Module

A site adjacent to the Linton Reservoir was chosen for the centralized treatment. Tenders were called for a works capable of treating 5 million gallons of water per day (22,7 Mt / d) and the contract for construction was awarded to Messrs Blane and Co Ltd for the sum of £30 300. Construction commenced in January 1936. A separate contract for the mechanical equipment and plant was awarded to Paterson Co Ltd for the sum of £232 285.

The works comprised an inlet mixing weir, flocculation chamber, two horizontal flow sedimentation tanks with hoppers and six rapid gravity sand filters. The administrative building housed three dry chemical feeders, a laboratory, office, chemical store and the filter backwash tank. The final water was disinfected with chlorine gas prior to entering the Linton Reservoir from where it was reticulated.

Filtered water at the Filtration Module

The works were commissioned in September 1937 and became known as the Linton Water Purification Plant (later as the Linton Water Treatment Works). The greatly improved water quality, without the normal brown colour, was immediately noticed by consumers.

Recent photo of the Linton Admin Block