Joburg’s Acid Water Threat

Posted: July 22, 2010 in Uncategorized
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It’s less than a day since the launch of Secret South Africa and a massive story is breaking beneath Johannesburg.

Joburg woke up today, only to find that millions of litres of highly acidic mine water is rising up under the city, and  if left unchecked, could spill out into the streets in less than 18 months. If the acid water rose to the surface, it could pose a serious threat to the city’s inhabitants, its buildings and the surrounding environment.

Currently the acid water is situated about 600m below the city’s surface, but it is rising at a rate of between 0.6 and 0.9m a day.

The acid water is formed when it oxidises with the sulphide mineral iron pyrite, better known as fool’s gold, and tarts to seep into the surrounding ground.

In 2002, acid mine drainage started decanting from the Western Basin, located below the Krugersdorp-Randfontein area. The outflow grew worse earlier this year after heavy rains. When government attempted to neutralise the acid water by pouring tons of lime into the Tweelopies Spruit, a thick sludge was formed in the water.

The problem of acid water is not new. According to Leadership, Joburg’s Western Basin was flooded in 2002 and 2005 by acid mine water and that transformed the Tweelopiespruit into a class-5 toxic river. The Robinson Lake became a radioactive dam with uranium levels of 40 000 above background or natural uranium levels.

According to The Times, many RDP houses are being erected next to radioactive dumps. Many of Gauteng’s poorer communities live alongside, or on top of, land contaminated by mining activities. These people are exposed to high concentrations of cobalt, zinc, arsenic, and cadmium, all known carcinogens, as well as high levels of radioactive uranium.

This makes you wonder. How safe is South Africa’s water supply and how easily could it be compromised?

Is Johannesburg’s acid water problem merely the result of bad management? Or maybe the real reason is something completely different…

We should be worried that our mines are have been producing radioactive material for nearly ten years. And we should be even more worried that the government has done little to rectify the situation.

What is really happening behind the scenes?

What do you think?

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