Residents left in the dark over AMD treatment

Written by  Sheree Bega Monday, 13 February 2017 09:54
Rate this item
(0 votes)

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has been accused of “authorising pollution”, after its water quality tests for its acid mine drainage (AMD) plants in the Witwatersrand surpassed the government’s own water resource quality objectives.

“The graphs reveal the manganese, the sulphate and the electrical conductivity for the Central and Eastern Basins treated AMD significantly exceeds the legally binding water resource quality standards and resource quality objectives for the Upper Vaal”, explains Mariette Liefferink, chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE).  “The same is true (for) the discharges of the treated AMD into the Tweelopiespruit, which is part of the Crocodile West Water Management Area.”

AMD refers to the flow, or seepage, of polluted water from old mining areas.  The FSE had launched a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application, together with the Centre for Environmental Rights, to obtain the results of the water quality monitoring of neutralised AMD discharged from the Eastern, Central and Western Basins AMD treatment plants in the Blesbokspruit, Elsburgspruit, a tributary to the Klip River, and the Tweelopiespruit, on the West Rand.

“The numerical limits for manganese, sulphate and electrical conductivity are non-compliant with the water resource quality for the Vaal and Crocodile west/Limpopo water management areas.  Concisely stated, the DWS has authorised pollution”, says Liefferink.

In its response to Liefferink, the DWS stresses that “due to technical, operational limitations and financial constraints the determinants are limited to the key parameters indicative of AMD” and it only measures electrical conductivity, manganese, iron and pH.  But AMD, says Liefferink, contains a broad spectrum of heavy metals in elevated concentrations such as lead cobalt, the metalloid arsenic, long-living cyanide complexes, cobalt, nickel and uranium.

Next week, the DWS and the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority will officially launch the Eastern Basin’s AMD plant, one of the largest high-density sludge plants in the world, with a maximum treatment capacity of 110 million litres a day.  It has been in operation since August.

“The neutralised AMD that is discharged into the Blesbokspruit, which hosts the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, contains highlevels of sulphate.  This is between 1 300mg to 1 460[mg/l.  The water resource quality objectives for the Vaal are 600mg/l for sulphate. The water also contains elevated levels of sulphate and electrical conductivity]” says Liefferink.

In 2014, the location of the sludge facility for the plant was the subject of a petition over fears of water contamination and blasting.  “The sludge from the Eastern Basin is disposed into the Grootvlei Shaft 3.  No environmental impact assessment was conducted to determine the impacts.  The sludge contains toxic and radioactive metals.  The impacts of the sludge on downstream water users, the groundwater and the ecology have not been assessed”, Liefferink says.

But the DWS says an environmental authorisation for the interim trail deposition of sludge from the Eastern Basin AMD plant into the Grootvlei 3 shaft was not required.  “Prior to commissioning, the proposed interim trial deposition of sludge into the shaft was presented to the authorities (with) no requirement for environmental authorisation.”

Philip de Jager, a trustee of the Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Conservation Trust, and who represents residents who raised concerns over the sludge disposal, has no knowledge of the opening next week.  “But this does not surprise me as input by the locals is usually ignored,” he says.

 

 (Please note:  The typographical errors are the FSE’s and not the Saturday Star’s.)

MINING

Down in the dumps, there's hope

"WHERE there's waste, there's opportunity," said mining hydrologist Kym Morton, pointing to a huddle of shacks perched on top of a mine dump in Krugersdorp.

Fokus reports on Coal Mine east of Springs

SABC's Fokus of 23 July 2017 addresses the planned Palmietkuilen coal mine east ...

Zuma-linked mine dealt legal blow

In arguing against Atha-Africa and its BEE partner being given a mining right in...

SA NEWS

Addressing waste and pollution of the past

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment is proud to announce the launch of the booklet titled “Rehabilitation of Mine Contaminated Eco-Systems. A Contribution to a Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy to Combat Unemployment and Climate Change” by Mariette Liefferink of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE). The booklet was commissioned by the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) in collaboration with the Friedrick Ebert Stiftung.

Nuwe myn ‘sal duisende hul huise kos’

Byna 10 000 mense sal verskuif moet word as Anglo Operations Ltd en Canyon Coal hul sin kry om ’n massiewe oopgroefsteenkoolmyn oos van Springs te begin.

SA coal mines leave legacy of ruin

Johannesburg - A 19-month data investigation of mine closures indicates that since at least 2011 no large coal mines operating in South Africa have been granted closure.

Besoedelingklagte: Mynbase daag nie by hof op

Drie direkteure van die Blyvooruitzicht- en Village Main Reef-goudmyn buite ­Carletonville kan ’n boete van tot R10 miljoen of tien jaar tronkstraf opgelê word weens die beweerde besoedeling en agteruitgang van die omgewing.

WATER

Project to heal polluted river . System will·create stream·of jobs

THE POTENTIAL to create 100 climate jobs and to help : bring a "dead river system" back to life -that's the ration­ale behind a proposed pilot project to heal one of Gau­teng's most heavily polluted river systems, the Tweelopiespruit, which has been con­taminated by more than a century of mining.

'Mine Water can be treated, safe'

SOUTH Africans have to "change their mindsets" that they can't drink acid mine d...

Agencies set up to manage water use flounder

NEARLY 20 years after they were written into South Africa's National Water Act, ...