Warning as water tank topples over

The 750-litre JoJo slimline tank which fell over.

A Durbanville woman has warned of the hazards of not having a water tank installed properly after hers toppled over.

Pat Rontgen bought a 750-litre JoJo Slimline tank in July at a local hardware store for R2 000 and had it installed privately.

While Ms Rontgen noticed the edge of the tank was hanging over the base, she didn’t think it was that big an issue.

Then early on Saturday January 6 she was woken by a loud bang. At first she thought someone was breaking into her house, but her tank – full at the time – had fallen off its plinth. Ms Rontgen believes the weight of the water had made it unsteady.

She said it was only when she returned to the store to report what had happened that she was told about the correct way to install the tank: the base should have extended at least 10cm on all sides of the tank.

Adding to her woes, her insurance company, citing “poor workmanship”, refused to cough up.

But Ms Rontgen’s biggest fear is that someone could be hurt or worse by other tanks that haven’t been installed properly – thousands have mushroomed across the city since the water crisis hit and a lot of them are much bigger than hers. Some have gone up at creches and schools and they hold several tons of water.

“If there are children playing under the tank and the tank falls over, they are gone,” she said.

Because the tanks are still a relatively new phenomenon in suburban Cape Town, Ms Rontgen believes there’s a good chance many installers are flying by the seats of their pants. She doubts her tank was the only one installed incorrectly.

“These tanks are being sold, but there are no instructions or warning signs on them. For someone who doesn’t know much about having the tanks installed they too could face the same fate,” she said.

Manufacturers, she said, should be compelled to post warning signage on the tanks.

“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Luani Combrink, from JoJo Tank, said the following steps should be taken when installing a water tank:

* The tank should be at a downpipe or repositioned using piping/guttering.

* Tanks must be installed on a sound, level and smooth surface. Level paving will suffice, or a properly designed tank stand. Alternatively, a concrete plinth should be built, ideally with a concrete surface bed at least 85mm thick.

* Bases should extend for at least 10cm on all sides of the tank.

* Follow packaging instructions when installing the first-flush diverter, a pipe extension that draws off the first flow of rainwater – tainted by grit and dirt from the roof – before directing clean water into the tank.

There is a list of recommended installers on the JoJo Tank website.

“We carefully screened them to ensure they have the right equipment and experience to satisfactorily serve our customers. They were also required to take a range of courses to ensure that they meet our uncompromising criteria,” Ms Combrink said.

JoJo Tanks has since offered to replace Ms Rontgen’s tank.