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462
06-04-2013, 08:43 AM
By October, the acidic, radioactive liquid lurking under central Johannesburg is expected to pass a critical point. After decades of inaction, a mad scramble is underway to save the city and its neighbours.
In January, site clearing began for a pumping and treatment station aimed at preventing a tide of radioactive acid mine drainage (AMD) from flooding the streets of Johannesburg. At least until a more permanent solution can be found.
The contractors, Group Five, have been given ten-and-a-half months and R319 million to complete the project that would normally take two years and cost a lot less. Even in the unlikely event of nothing going wrong, that’s cutting it fine. The plan is to start pumping in October, the very month in which the deadly liquid is expected to reach the Environmentally Critical Level (ECL) of 186m below the surface.
The new plant, at a disused shaft in Germiston, will have to remove and treat 57 million litres of AMD daily just to prevent it topping that mark. Any higher and it will drown Gold Reef City, eat away at Joburg’s subterranean infrastructure, contaminate its dolomitic aquifers and start percolating upwards to seep out of the ground in the CBD and Boksburg. The rising water is also expected to increase seismic activity and promote the development of sinkholes.
It’s unthinkable. Unless you live a few kilometres to the west, where the unthinkable has already happened. In 2002, the first underground AMD water reached the surface of the Witwatersrand and decanted into the heavily populated Western Basin, which includes the towns of Krugersdorp/Mogale City, Randfontein, Kagiso and Potchefstroom as well as a mosaic of informal settlements.
The mining companies, political authorities and the nuclear regulator were taken by surprise since they’d only known about the coming catastrophe for six years. There were no contingency plans, so the highly corrosive, radioactive and poisonous water, decanting at a rate of 20 million litres a day, was either allowed to flow uncontrolled into watercourses and wetlands, or was pumped into nearby dams and lakes. The flow has barely slackened since.
In the wet year of 2010 the decant spiked at 60 million litres a day. The state-owned Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority is now pumping as fast as it can to keep the AMD one metre below the surface. The pumped water is partially neutralised before being piped into the north-flowing Tweelopiespruit, but it is still acidic and radioactive and after treatment, also highly saline.
The upper Tweelopies is now designated a Class 5 river, meaning “acutely toxic”. Further downstream, it has been blamed for contaminating dams in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, leading to the deaths of hippos and many smaller creatures. This poisoned stream then enters the Blaauwbankspruit which flows through the Cradle of Humankind before adding its taint to the Crocodile River which transports it all the way to the Hartbeespoort Dam.
On the other side of the watershed, the decant has added a massive extra burden to the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment, a river system already overloaded with acid mine drainage from surface sources.
With regard to the hasty installation of pumps in Germiston, knowledgeable sources point out that pumping deals with only half the problem: “totally inadequate provision has been made for plant to clean up the pumped out water before it is released into local watercourses, just creating a different problem."
From the time mining began, more than 125 years ago, heavily polluted water has been leaking from the hundreds of uncovered, crumbling, unlined dumps and dams that line the catchment’s rivers and streams. That’s aside from the radon gas and the uraniferous dust spread far and wide whenever the wind blows.
The Witwatersrand ores may have been rich in gold, but they were 10 times richer in uranium. And until a use was found for the stuff, it was discarded with the rest of the mine residue, along with significant amounts of polonium, cadmium, arsenic and lead.
Across the entire Reef, mine dumps occupy a footprint of 400km² and contain an estimated 600,000 tons of uranium at a concentration of 100 parts per million – higher than the tailings of many specialised uranium mines.
Like the exposed rock faces of the underground shafts, the dumps are also rich in iron pyrite which forms sulphuric acid when exposed to water and oxygen. The acid liberates the heavy metals and other chemicals from the tailings and waste rock so they can be washed away by the rain, blown away by the wind, or leached through the unprotected, porous dolomitic ground to further contaminate the AMD already flooding the voids beneath.
In 1934 the water in Lancaster Dam outside Krugersdorp was considered so pure it was counted among South Africa’s seven natural wonders. But as the piles of detritus around it have grown, so has its toxic load. Recent measurements indicate that the uranium concentration is up to 4,000 times higher than the regional natural background for water. As you would expect, the dam is now completely sterile – devoid of all life.
From this poisoned source, the Wonderfonteinspruit (its name long a cruel joke) winds its way among abandoned mines, working farms, towns and sprawling shanty-towns, dispersing and collecting radioactive and other toxic chemicals for almost 100km before it drains into the Mooi River (a tributary of the Vaal) near Potchefstroom.
It took a while before the effects of this pollution began to be felt in the lower reaches of the catchment, but by the 1960s, the farmers were beginning to complain. Their concerns were ignored for more than 30 years until the first official survey of pollution in the area was conducted by the Institute of Water Quality Studies (IWQS), a research unit of the then Department of Water and Forestry.
The results of the two-year study confirmed what had been long-suspected: parts of the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment were contaminated with potentially harmful levels of radioactive chemicals as a result of the careless habits of the mining industry. (And this was well before the decant.)
The water quality report was followed by a flurry of other studies by a range of parties including government agencies, universities, international experts and NGOs, most of which agreed that something ought to be done, especially after 2002.
But the one that caught the public’s imagination was carried out by a team from the Water Research Council, led by geoscientist Dr Henk Coetzee, which in 2006 said bluntly that the level of radioactive contamination throughout the catchment posed a significant threat to the health of all who lived there or consumed its produce.
The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) which is supposed to protect the public from just such contamination, instead managed to have the report suppressed after a mining company complained that it reflected badly on the industry.
Only after two years of relentless pressure from environmental justice campaigner Mariette Liefferink (see seperate profile, Wonder Woman, Gauteng's Last Hope) was the report published. It caused a sensation. Wonderfonteinspruit became an international cause célèbre. The media was scandalised, the public was shocked, politicians promised to do something and sales of bottled water soared in the posher parts of Potch.
But South Africa’s nuclear protector refused to accept the results. Instead, it commissioned new research from a German firm. Embarrassingly for the NNR, the so-called Brenk Report’s conclusions were even starker than those of Coetzee et al. There was renewed outrage, further promises of immediate action, and more reports.
In his 2013 budget speech, Pravin Gordhan specifically mentioned both derelict mines and acid mine drainage. Then he tossed R150 million at the problem which the Auditor General calculates will take more than R30 billion to fix.
But the toxic flood continues unabated. A recent series of studies by Professor Frank Winde of the North-West University indicates that an estimated 2,200 tons of uranium is lying in the sediments of the Wonderfonteinspruit. Every year another 6 tons are added, along with a further 3.5 tons suspended in the water.
The ongoing contamination is not only a passive process. Ever since nuclear power came back into fashion and the uranium price shot up, mining companies (with much encouragement from the government) have been keen to salvage this abandoned treasure. New technology and a higher price has also made re-mining the waste for gold a profitable venture.
Old dumps and dams are crawling with heavy machinery, stirring up the dust, remobilising the toxic and radioactive elements and speeding their dispersal. Containment walls have been breached, releasing torrents of radioactive slurry into the environment. Pipes carrying hazardous sludge for kilometres to new (and unlined) “superdumps” close to the Vaal have broken, spewing tons of the stuff on to fields and into watercourses.
In its 2009 Remediation Action Plan, the Department of Water Affairs fingered waste-remining companies like Mintails, Mine Waste Solutions (owned by AngloGold Ashanti) and DRDGold for making a bad situation worse.
But the miners don’t seem to care and the nuclear regulator is clearly unwilling to apply the law.
So while certain government agencies work frantically to stem the radioactive tide threatening the entire Witwatersrand, the so-called “independent” regulator has proved incapable even of reducing the flow from traceable sources over which it has jurisdiction.
As usual, the job of policing the industry has been left to unpaid members of the public, underfunded NGOs and academics.

462
06-04-2013, 08:46 AM
deel 2 In March 2011, Mariette Liefferink’s Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE), reported Mine Waste Solutions to both the Nuclear Regulator and Water Affairs after the wall of a dam it was reworking at Stilfontein collapsed, flooding large areas of private and public land with radioactive slurry.
The regulator inspected, wrote a report and took no action.
Nine more spills were recorded before July 2012, when AngloGold Ashanti bought the company and the dumps.
Things didn’t change much. The leaks from broken pipes, unlined trenches and failed containment walls continued; Liefferink’s Federation for a Sustainable Environment reported them to the nuclear regulator; the regulator did nothing – that is, apart from issuing a directive to AngloGold Ashanti and then withdrawing it. In December, the federation lodged an appeal with the Gauteng High Court against that decision.
In January, Liefferink laid criminal charges against AngloGold Ashanti with the SAPS in Klerksdorp. In her affidavit, she says the mining company and its individual directors are in breach of both the South African Constitution and the National Environment Management Act and should be prosecuted.
“It has become overwhelmingly evident that the organs of state whose duty and mandate it is to regulate the mining industry and to enforce environmental contraventions, have failed,” says Liefferink.
“[This] failure... necessitates that I now lay these charges and request that justice be done.”
AngloGold Ashanti spokesperson Alan Fine, reassured Noseweek that the company “duly reported all incidents of (waste) water spillages... to the relevant regulators” and took “full responsibility for any environmental incident resulting from its mining operations”.
He said they would “co-operate with the authorities in any investigation they may carry out in that connection” .
Noseweek’s latest appeal for a response from the Nuclear Regulator was still unanswered after three weeks.
Beware low-level radiation
Up until 2003, the World Health Organization regarded water with a uranium concentration of anything higher than 2 micrograms per litre (2μg/l) as unsafe for drinking. But with the nuclear renaissance, that limit was increased in 2004 by a staggering 750% to 15μg/l.
The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has adopted the same figure. The Department of Water Affairs considers 80μg/l safe – higher than the limit in any other country. (Before 1996, South Africa’s water ministry regarded 1,000μg/l as safe, and even 8,000 as only “low risk”.)
By comparison, the global freshwater average is 0.4μg/l, the average for unpolluted rivers near the Wondersfonteinspruit catchment is 0.8μg/l, acidic water decanting from the flooded mines of the West Rand initially contained some 16,000μg/l and the current outflow of the Wonderfonteinspruit, the least contaminated part of that polluted river, is 79μg/l, 100 times the regional background, but still within the Department of Water Affairs’ liberal limits.
That’s just the water. The hundreds of thousands of vulnerable, malnourished, immunity-compromised people who live in shacks among the abandoned mines of the Far West Rand are exposed to radioactive poisoning from every possible source. Uranium contaminates the food they grow, the fish they catch and the air they breathe. And what they don’t ingest bombards them from the outside with electron- stripping waves of ionising radiation. Not to mention the deadly radon gas.
Worldwide, the safe limit for external radiation has been set at 1 milli-Sievert (mSv) a year. The National Nuclear Regulator’s own Brenk Report found half the sites they measured in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment exceeded that by a factor of up to 100.
Internationally respected radiation epidemiologist Chris Busby measured a dose amounting to 9.72 mSv a year inside a shack at the Tudor Shaft settlement near the heavily polluted headwaters of the Waterfonteinspruit.
How much damage this is doing to the people living there, we do not know. For all the counting of uranium levels in the water, soil, plants and animals over the past two decades, no-one has bothered to do any epidemiological studies on the people.
The growing body of international research on the effects of prolonged exposure to low-level radiation indicates that it’s more dangerous than current safety limits would suggest.
What has also become clear is that uranium is chemo-toxic as well as radioactive. Even a tiny amount, if ingested, chemically attacks the kidneys and the brain, disrupts the endocrine system, compromises the immune system and damages the DNA.
The desperately poor people living among the mine dumps have more pressing concerns that invisible particles and waves that could make them sick years down the line.
But the threat is now becoming evident among communities under less existential pressure. Like the people of Potchefstroom, who get most of their drinking water from the Boskop Dam, which receives 15% of its water from the Waterfonteinspruit. The uranium levels in the town’s tap water have shown a drastic rise recently, from less than 0.2μg/l to over 5μg/l and the people have lost faith in their leaders’ bland assurances.
Even further east, in the Johannesburg suburb of Riverlea, the residents have recently begun complaining about breathing difficulties and skin lesions, which they blame on the dust kicked up by the re-mining of their neighbourhood mine dump by DRDGold.
Soon, like the AMD, their voices will reach a critical level. And, as with acid mine drainage, the authorities will act too late.

478
06-05-2013, 09:05 AM
This is shocking. A friend of mine living in Roodepoort has undergone a mastectomy, as well as removal of lymph nodes under her arm. Lumps popped up very suddenly, and she was taken in immediately for surgery. I wonder if this happened due to the contamination in the area? I think I will wait for her to recover from surgery before bombarding her with this info.

Unregistered
06-23-2013, 06:12 PM
Kry die sms. Weet iemand iets hiervan?

Madeleen in Kaap vra:Bid asb! D 1ste boer is vermoor in Wellington agv stakings op Wes-Kaapse plase. Boere het nou begin skiet op stakers.Chaos! Dis nou hoofnuus! 2de Boer sopas doodgeslaan. Robertson & Ashton word ontruim. Hul besig om plekke aan brand t steek. Dis bja erger as wat op nuus lyk! Swartes sing, sper paaie af,steek plase aan brand-dis oestyd; geweerskote in nag,ambulans & polisie sirenes! Nou begin hul doodmaak. Vat d plase nes Zim.polisie doen niks, mag nie skiet nie, boere is magteloos! Asb, neem 5min & bid dat God sal intree! Stuur aan asb vir gebedsmaats Anneli Knoetse Ek stuur aan vir gebed asb! Mense die is nie n bog storie nie moet dit om hemels naam nie ignoreer nie Hou die nuus berigte dop asb dis ons volk daar buite dis ons mense!!!!!

462
06-23-2013, 07:31 PM
Hierdie berig is n ou een. Het verlede jaar verskyn tydens onrus.Iemand word laat wakker of probeer om te <stir>.

Unregistered
06-23-2013, 07:36 PM
So vermoed. Dankie.

Unregistered
06-23-2013, 07:41 PM
Hier in Boland gaan nie veel aan nie, oestyd is verby....die boere gaan hou nou vakansie. Inbrake neem hierdie tyd baie toe agv van werkloosheid, maar geen massa stakings nie.
Daar was so roering of twee om weer die stakings te hervat, omdat die permanente werkers ontevrede is oor voordele wat hulle verloor het nadat die minimum loon aangepas is. Daar sal seker iets van kom as die seisoen begin.
Ongeag van die opstande was dit n goeie oesjaar. Dit lyk of die boere planne maak, elektriese bedrading word opgesit rondom wingerde, arbeids intensiewe gewasse word uitgehaal.

462
06-24-2013, 08:15 PM
Die goewerment het uiteindelik besluit om te erken dat Mandela in 'n kritieke toestand is - dit na hulle Vrydag vir ons vertel het hy is op pad huistoe...

Die wêreld hou asem op en baie van ons mense is vreeslik bekommerd oor wat die toekoms vir ons inhou. Ons mense word reeds daagliks aangeval en vermoor en dus dink ek nie dat daar enige wesenlike verskil in die onmiddelike toekoms gaan wees nie. Stenig my maar, maar ek dink daar is mense en organisasies wat onnodig paniek saai en finansiëel daarby baat.

Vir die my gevra het vir my opinie hieroor, hier is dit...

Wat ek wel voorspel is dat spanning tussen die verskillende etniese groepe gaan vererger. Mandela is 'n Xhosa en sy "teenwoordigheid" het hulle redelik gematig gehou, maar die Xhosas is redelik moeg vir die manier waarop die Zoeloes besig is om die Staatskas te stroop en miljarde in Natal en in die Zoeloe-koning te stop. Een van die Xhosa-konings het hoeka die naweek sy stem dik gemaak oor Zuma en sy korrupte spannetjie... Boonop het baie Xhosas vir die ANC gestem uit lojaliteit vir Mandela en ek twyfel of hulle dieselfde gaan voel oor Zuma. Daar is ook van die "Liberales" onder ons mense wat simpatiek gestaan het teenoor die ANC ter wille van die "Mandela Legacy", maar moeilik die dade van die party gaan verdedig as hy nie meer daar is nie...

Dan het ons ook nou AgangSA en Malema se EFF-party wat verder sal sorg vir verdeeltheid onder die volkies.

In kort dink ek dat ons na ons eie veiligheid moet omsien en uit die pad van die lotte se gevegte moet bly! Sx