Uranium water email causes a splash

Johannesburg – Rand Water has launched an internal investigation into a scientist who wrote an email to friends and colleagues in Potchefstroom, warning them not to drink their tap water under any circumstances as it contains uranium, among other things.

Annelie Swanepoel, a senior scientist at Rand Water, recanted this email about two weeks later.

Rand Water spokesperson Gregg Mulzack refused to say whether Swanepoel was pressured into doing this.

Swanepoel said her colleague, Henry Foden, from Rand Water’s inorganic laboratory, recently told her he had received a water sample from Potchefstroom which was severely polluted with heavy metals, especially uranium.

“All I know is that when you drink enough of it, you will start glowing in the dark!” Foden reportedly told Swanepoel.

‘Not based on facts’

A few days later she wrote again, saying she took back the email she wrote on September 1 because the information it contained was “not based on facts” but on hearsay, and as such it was not a valid reason to question the quality of Potchefstroom’s tap water.

“The Tlokwe city council (besides routine analyses done by their local laboratory as well as other independent laboratories) has also initiated, in co-operation with Rand Water, a comprehensive set of analyses of Potchefstroom’s drinking water.”

Swanepoel said she’s not allowed to discuss the matter with Beeld, but that she is “in very big trouble”.

Mulzack refused to provide Beeld with the results of Foden’s water analysis, despite Beeld pointing out that it is in the public interest.

He promised that Rand Water would issue a statement as soon as all internal investigations into the matter have been concluded.

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