Water News

Bloedspoor van die Mynbedryf

Written by  Saturday, 02 August 2008 00:58
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Duisende mense en diere wat binne etlike kilometer van die Tweelopiespruit aan die Wes-Rand woon, sit op 'n chemiese tydbom, sê kenners. Elise Tempelhoff volg die bloedspoor wat die mynbedryf oor 120 jaar hier gelos het.

Duisende mense en diere wat binne etlike kilometer van die Tweelopiespruit aan die Wes-Rand woon, sit op 'n chemiese tydbom, sê kenners. Elise Tempelhoff volg die bloedspoor wat die mynbedryf oor 120 jaar hier gelos het.
Strome bloedrooi water loop oral teen die helling af.
Op sommige plekke slaan dit soos rooi kolle op kladpapier uit.
Die water vlek die grond roesrooi.
Ses jaar gelede het die suur mynwater net by ’n ou ventilasieskag en ’n boorgat aan die noordelike helling van die Witwatersrand, by die Wes-Rand tussen Randfontein en Krugersdorp, uitgeborrel.
Deesdae loop dit hier, tussen die ou mynhope, op verskeie ander plekke ook uit. Al die stroompies rooi water wat teen die rant afloop, kom in die drif by die Tweelopiespruit bymekaar.
Die riete in die spruit is rooi gevlek en al die organismes wat vroeër daarin geleef het, is dood: visse, ongewerweldes, krappe en paddas.
Kol-kol op die oewer van die Tweelopiespruit lê wit neerslae soute soos omlope oral op die grond.
En ’n klipgooi verder, noordwaarts, in die Krugersdorp-wildtuin, ly mens en dier onder die nalatenskap van ’n mynboubedryf wat nou ná 120 jaar feitlik uitgeput is.

’n Giftige brousel

 

Mense wat voorheen bang was om te praat oor die bloedspoor wat die suur mynwater agterlaat, verbreek nou die stilte. Maar hulle praat namens ’n groep of vra dat hul naam nie genoem word nie, want die goudmynbedryf se “sakke is diep”. ’n Woordvoerder van African Bush Adventure (ABA) wat die Krugersdorp-wildtuin bestuur, sê die water in die Tweelopiespruit, wat deur die reservaat loop, is soms “niks anders as verdunde swaelsuur nie”.

Dis die enigste waterbron vir dié wildtuin se wild. Die meeste diere, veral die kleintjies, soos bokkies en kalfies wat pas gespeen is, weier om die water te drink. Dis “hartverskeurend” om te sien hoe hulle teruggaan na hul ma en sy nie meer melk het om hul dors te les nie, vertel ’n werknemer.
Dié diertjies oorleef nie lank nie. Hulle gaan dood van die dors.

Soms “behandel” Harmony Gold die water (wat by die ou ventilasieskag uitloop) met kalk en seepsoda in ’n poging om dit alkalies te maak. Maar in die reënseisoen oorweldig die water die mynhuis en dan loop megaliters suur mynwater direk en “onbehandel” in die Tweelopiespruit in.
Vroeër kon Harmony die meeste van die water wat by die ou ventilasieskag (in die omgangstaal bekend as “Buks se gat”) en boorgat uitgeborrel het, tot ’n mate beheer, maar deesdae sluit al hoe meer myne aan die Wes-Rand hul deure en kom die water “onbeheersd” na die dolomitiese kompartemente terug. Dit loop nou uit by boorgate en fonteine (hiervan was 36 in die omgewing van Randfontein) wat die afgelope eeu weens mynbou uitgedroog het.
Dié water, wat nou ná meer as ’n eeu “terug kom”, is giftig. Dit is besoedel met ’n brousel van swaar metale soos uraan, arseen, aluminium, kobalt, kadmium, lood, yster en mangaan, asook radioaktiewe gifstowwe.

 

Seekoeie in batterysuur

Werknemers van die Krugersdorpwildtuin ry daagliks water aan vir die leeus in die wildtuin, wat nou in ’n kamp aangehou word. Die leeus is immers die groot trekpleister. Die ander diere is uitgelewer aan die water in die Tweelopiespruit en die fonteine in die wildtuin waarvan die watergehalte gedurig wissel.
In 2002, toe die suur mynwater op Harmony Gold se myngrond begin uitborrel het, het nege leeus, ’n aantal jagluiperds, hartbeeste en ’n verskeidenheid boksoorte gevrek nadat hulle die spruit se water gedrink het. Die gevrekte leeus is destyds deur veeartse van Onderstepoort ondersoek.
Hul diagnose was dat die diere lewerskade, waarskynlik weens die swaar metale in die water, opgedoen het. Baie dragtige diere het ook geaborteer. Baie van hulle aborteer steeds. Maar dis moeilik om die omvang daarvan vas te stel omdat roofdiere die dooie fetusse opvreet voordat dit getel kan word.

Naby die ingang van die wildtuin woon twee seekoeie die afgelope vyf jaar in water wat byna soos “batterysuur” is in ’n dam wat voorheen net water gehad het tydens groot reëns.
Ná ’n paar dae het die water destyds gewoonlik in die dolomitiese kompartemente weggesyfer. Sedert 2002 is daar heeltyd water in die dam.

Geohidroloë meen die mynbedryf het die geologie van die dolomitiese gebied só versteur dat grondwater wat van onder opstoot, verantwoordelik is vir die standhoudende water.
Dierkundiges meen dis ’n wonderwerk dat die twee seekoeie daar oorleef. Dis ook vreemd dat hulle dié dam kies om in te woon, pleks van die Charles Fourie-dam stroomaf (waarvan die watergehalte ietwat beter is).

Dié dam, waarin hulle van 1991 tot 2003 gewoon het, is naby die Ngonyama Lion Lodge in die Krugersdorp-wildtuin. As die seekoeie hul bekke oopmaak, lyk dit kompleet of daar ’n bloederigheid tussen hul tande is. As hulle in die son lê, sien ’n mens die spierwit soutneerslag op hul vel.

Sout op blare

Navorsing oor die invloed van mynbesoedelde water op die “reproduktiese fiksheid van wilde diere, is feitlik onbekombaar”, sê ’n omgewingskundige. Hy vertel die diere in die wildtuin teel beslis nie soos voorheen aan nie. ’n Groep navorsers van die WNNR skryf daaroor in “The Pollution and destruction threat of goldmining waste on the Witwatersrand – A West Rand case study”, wat verlede jaar verskyn het. Daarvolgens kan die sigbare afname in die blesbok-springbok- en leeugetalle in die wildtuin direk verband hou met die invloed van die suur mynwater op die diere se gesondheid. Suur mynwater wat in die Tweelopiespruit en in die grondwater beland, kry ook die skuld vir die diere se lewerskade en testikulêre agteruitgang.

Die wildtuinbestuur sukkel ook erg met infrastruktuur soos besproeiingstelsels wat roes. “Soms hou kleppe, krane en koppelings, asook sproeikoppe net twee weke voordat dit wegroes en vervang moet word. Bome en struike wat deur die besoedelde water besproei word, vrek ook. As hulle met boorgatwater besproei word, lê ’n dik soutneerslag op die takke en blare.”

Besoekers aan die reservaat word gewaarsku om nie die water uit die Tweelopiespruit te drink of daar naby te kom nie. ’n Gifwaarskuwing oor die water in die Tweelopiespruit is drie jaar gelede deur die Wes-Randse distriksmunisipaliteit en die departement van waterwese en bosbou uitgereik.
Water vir primêre gebruik in die Krugersdorp-wildtuin word nou deur Randwater verskaf. Die res van die kleinhoewebewoners langs die spruit is egter steeds afhanklik van suur boorgatwater.
In nog ’n navorsingstuk deur die WNNR in Maart, “Mine water pollution – acid mine decant, effluent and treatment: a consideration of key emerging issues that may impact the state of the environment”, skryf dr. Suzan Oelofse oor die gebiede aan die Witwatersrand waar intensiewe mynbou die afgelope meer as ’n eeu plaasgevind het. Volgens haar is dit nie net die water wat besoedel is nie, maar ook die grond se boonste 20 cm. Dit word toegeskryf aan die giftige ondergrondse water wat na die oppervlak begin opstoot. Sy skryf die besoedeling is nie net beperk tot die onmiddellike gebied waar mynbou plaasgevind het nie, maar die besoedelings?pluim tot 10 km verder kan strek.

Dit is juis om hierdie rede dat wetenskaplikes, argeoloë en die bewaringsgemeenskap bekommerd is oor die invloed van die suur mynwater op die voortbestaan van die Sterkfonteingrotte. Geoloë waarsku dat die Sterkfonteingrotte in die toekoms met besoedelde water oorstroom kan word.

Die Sterkfonteingrotte is enkele kilometer stroomaf van die mynbedrywighede geleë en die water in die grotte is deel van die gebied se grondwater.

Nou probeer mynhuise die watertafel “laag” hou deur die water uit te pomp. Hulle wil dit nou halfpad skoon maak en na die platinummyne in Rustenburg toe pomp. Dié transaksie is egter nog nie beklink nie.

Bose kringloop

Intussen word die water wel uitgepomp, tot ’n mate behandel en beland dan tussen die mynhope in ’n “versteekte dam”. Dis dus ’n “bose kringloop”, sê geohidroloë, omdat dit dan weer in die grondwater beland.

In ’n verslag wat die Mogale City- plaaslike owerheid al vir ’n jaar lank probeer stilhou, word gemeld hoe negatief gemeenskappe geraak word, wat in ’n radius van etlike kilometers van die goudmyne woon. Die outeur van die “geheime” verslag (waarvan ’n kopie in Beeld se besit is) sê die doel daarvan is om alle besluitnemers, asook die uitvoerende bestuur van Mogale City, bewus te maak van die negatiewe invloed wat mynbou op die gemeenskappe in die omgewing het.

Duisende mense woon in ’n gebied wat besoedel word deur giftige water en lug, asook radioaktiwiteit wat veroorsaak word deur historiese en huidige mynbou, waarsku die verslag.

Baie van die inligting wat die outeur versamel het, is gegrond op waarnemings deur inwoners van die gebied.
Baie van hulle woon op kleinhoewes en is afhanklik van water uit hul boorgate. Dié mense kla hul drinkwater smaak sleg, dat dit rooi of oranje is en hul koffieverromer “bo dryf” as hulle dit by hul koffie gooi.

Mogale City ry nou water na van die kleinhoewes aan. Volgens ’n omgewingskundige beland 20 t swaar metale daagliks in die Tweelopiespruit. Die vermoë van die vleilande om die besoedelstowwe uit die water te haal, neem teen ’n “ontstellende tempo” af. Die vleilande is besig om stadig aan dood te gaan, waarsku die outeur.

“Ons sit hier op ’n chemiese tydbom.”

Geologie en geohidrologie

• Altesame 45% van alle gemynde goud op aarde kom uit die Witwatersrandkom.
• Die Tweelopiespruit ontspring in die omgewing van die Robinsonmeer, waarvan die uraanvlakke en die radioaktiwiteit 40 000 keer hoër is as in gewone, natuurlike water. Die Tweelopiespruit en sy sytak, die Rietspruit, is deel van die opvangsgebied van die Krokodilrivier (wat in die Hartbeespoortdam uitmond).
• Die Tweelopiespruit loop soms bogronds, maar verdwyn dikwels ondergronds.
• Mnr. Mike Buchanan, 'n karstekoloog, sê die ingewikkelde dolomitiese formasies in die gebied herinner aan "'n windskerm wat stukkend geslaan is".
• Groot dele van die N14 noord van die Krugersdorp-wildtuin, asook verskeie huise en ondernemenings kan in die toekoms hier negatief geraak word deur sinkgatvorming. Veral die Wieg van die Mensdom, 'n wêrelderfenisgebied, word ernstig bedreig.

Die verlede

Hoe lyk die Witwatersrand ná 120 jaar van intensiewe mynbou?
• 'n Verslag van die Federasie vir 'n Volhoubare Omgewing lui goudmynbou het sedert die einde van die 19de eeu 'n leegte (wat uitgemyn is) van nagenoeg 45 miljoen m³ onder die Wes-Rand gelaat. Dit staan as die western basin mine void bekend.
• Daar is 270 ou mynhope in dié gebied wat strek van Randfontein in die weste tot Nigel en Springs in die ooste.
• Saam beslaan dit 'n gebied van sowat 400 km². Dié gebied word as steriel beskou.
• Die mynhope is nie belyn nie en ook nie behoorlik beplant nie.
Dit het tot gevolg dat inwoners van die gebied daagliks aan giftige mynstof wat hulle inasem, blootgestel is.
• Die goudmyne is verantwoordelik vir minstens 47% van alle afval wat in Suid-Afrika gegenereer word.

Die toekoms

Wat moet nou gedoen word?
• Dringende navorsing om vas te stel hoe die besoedeling mense se gesondheid raak. Mense van die omgewing kla oor naarheid, diarree en 'n veluitslag.
• Groente en melk wat hier geproduseer word, moet dringend getoets word.
• Die Nasionale Kernreguleerder moet betrokke raak.
• Mynhuise moet saamspan en die gebied sover moontlik rehabiliteer, al beteken dit hulle moet hul aandeelhouers opspoor en van die koste van hulle verhaal, sê me. Mariëtte Liefferink van die Federasie vir 'n Volhoubare Omgewing.
• Die diere in die Krugersdorp-wildtuin moet getoets word.
• Die inwoners (tussen 10 000 en 20 000 mense) sal moontlik uit die dolomitiese gebied verskuif moet word.


Bykomende bronne:
• “Hydrological/Chemical aspects of the Tweelopie-/Riet-/Blaauwbankspruit, with specific reference to the impact water, decanting from the Western Basin Mine Void, has on the system” , saamgestel deur Garfield Krige van African Environmental Development.
• “Impact of the discharge of treated mine water, via the Tweelopiespruit on the receiving body Crocodile River System, Mogale City, Gauteng Province” deur Johan Fourie en medewerker

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‘People the same as pigs’ in the VaalBy Sheree Bega | 16 Oct 2020 Foul: Pigs root in sludge in Emfuleni municipality. (Photos: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G) Clutching her one-year-old son, Monica Ndakisa jumps onto a brick to avoid the sewage that runs like a dark stain across the passage in her home.  “We’ve lived like this for years,” she says pointing to one of the culprits: her blocked toilet, which causes sewage to pool into nearly every room of her home in Sebokeng hostel in the Vaal. “The smell is too terrible.” It’s worse outside. Her small garden is submerged in a sickly, grey sewage swamp. To stop the human waste from seeping inside, Ndakisa has built a concrete barrier at her front door. But it’s futile. “My five-year-old son was in the hospital for two weeks with severe eczema and they told me it’s because of all this sewage. It makes us cough all the time. It’s so depressing to live like this.” Samson Mokoena, of the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (Veja), shakes his head. “It’s chaos. You can’t allow people to live in such conditions. The government is playing with our people.” Ndakisa’s neighbour, Maphelo Apleni, has used pipes to divert the stream of sewage from his garden. “It never stops,” he says grimly. “We have a municipality [Emfuleni] that doesn’t care about us.” Mziwekaya Mokwana points at a sewage-filled furrow clogged with litter where pigs are feeding. “This is no better life,” he says. “People are the same as pigs here.” Sewage in Vaal River system  Last month, the human settlements, water and sanitation department said it would take at least another three years to minimise and eventually stop the sewage flowing into the Vaal River system. In a recent presentation, it states how “design treatment capacity is at its limit, housing development investments are delayed and there are negative environmental and health impacts”. Ageing infrastructure is to blame for sewage spillages, coupled “with a lack of operation and maintenance investment” as well as theft and vandalism.  It will cost about R2.2-billion “to have a sustainable impact on the Vaal River catchment within Emfuleni local municipality”. The department’s plan aims to safeguard infrastructure; repair the bulk network to eliminate spillages, key and critical pump stations and rising mains; refurbish wastewater treatment works “in an attempt to comply with discharge licence conditions”; and achieve operation and maintenance requirements. But Maureen Stewart, the vice-chairperson of Save the Vaal (Save) is sceptical. 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The total investment by the department in 2020/21 financial year is R1.2-billion in the Vaal; this includes the building of additional wastewater treatment capacity and associated pump stations.” Maphelo Apleni installs pipes to drain sewage out of his garden. Before the end of the financial year Module 6 in Sebokeng water care works will be launched, “subject to no community unrest disrupting construction”. The department, Ratau says, has to take all necessary precautions to ensure that section 217 of the constitution is followed as far as procurement is concerned.  “Thus the departmental checks and balances had to be followed to the letter to ensure compliance with procurement processes. This unfortunately caused delays but was necessary.” Within the next month the department aims to advertise for all the contractors “that can assist in this challenge”. Ratau says commitment dates, including start and completion dates, “will be sent not only to Save but all interested stakeholders once the contractors are appointed. The department cannot preempt this before the appointments are made.” He says that R7-billion is required to “solve the pollution challenge in ELM. This needs to be coupled with operations and maintenance, which is a function of ELM at local government level”. Save is once again taking the government to court to enforce legislation to ensure infrastructure is repaired within phased completion dates and that sufficient funds are made available for ongoing maintenance and operation of the system by the municipality, supervised by the high court.   Veja’s Mokoena is glad the department is taking over the Vaal clean-up. “This situation was supposed to be fixed a long time ago. So much money has been squandered at the municipal level.” Rand Water’s delay Eight months. 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In an email to Rand Water, Sebulela noted how the multiple requests for records by Aquatic Ecosystems and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment have allegedly been ignored, which in terms of Paia are deemed refusals.  “The SAHRC is greatly concerned by a large number of public institutions who provide such important services to the public who refuse to meet their basic legislative obligations,” he wrote. 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