“While the union welcomes that the water affairs department at long last acknowledges the crisis at hand, it is dismayed that nothing has been done sooner,” United Association of SA spokesperson André Venter said in a statement.
He said Uasa was amazed and irritated that Parliament’s water affairs portfolio committee expressed shock at hearing about the rising levels of acidic mine water, because “the alarm had frequently been sounded in the media since 2002 when the acid mining drainage started decanting on the West rand”.
Venter said the union had presented the “dangerous situation” to Connie September, adviser to the minister of water affairs in May, met with the department’s deputy director water quality management, Marius Keet, and wrote to Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel.
“Save for an acknowledgement of receipt, no response (from Manuel) has been received to date.
“The extent and details of the threat should be well-known by now.”
Uasa had since hosted two widely publicised water security seminars, with panels of experts highlighting the same problem.
Parliament’s water affairs portfolio committee was told on Wednesday that millions of litres of highly acidic mine water was rising up under Johannesburg and, if left unchecked, could spill out into its streets some 18 months from now.
The acid water is currently about 600m below the city’s surface, but is rising at a rate of between 0.6m and 0.9m a day, Keet told MPs.
“(It) can have catastrophic consequences for the Johannesburg central business district if not stopped in time. A new pumping station and upgrades to the high-density sludge treatment works are urgently required to stop disaster,” he warned.