Acid mine drainage is still a problem

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JOHANNESBURG – Eyewitness News has learned government spent R25 million on a ‘feasibility report’ to establish a long-term solution for acid mine drainage,but two years later the report’s findings have not been implemented.

In 2012,urgent concerns were raised that millions of litres of acid mine water under Johannesburg would flood lower-lying areas possibly affect the Gold Reef City amusement park.

A report presented to Cabinet also raised concerns of overflowing acid water posing a threat to the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site if not urgently addressed.

The Department of Water and Sanitation acknowledges the R25 million report,was deemed urgent,but says the delay in implementing its findings is a result of Minister Edna Molewa considering all options to find the best course of action.

The department’s Mlimandlela Ndamase says,“Ensuring that the most efficient and cost effective treatment processes may be implemented.”

Mariette Liefferink,who sat on the steering committee for the ‘feasibility report” says the current neutralisation process used to clean acid mine water is not safe for humans,nor for the environment.

“The water that is released contains 2,500 milligrams per litre of sulphate. The World Health Organisation’s standard for drinking water is 200.”

The department argues the neutralised acid mine water poses no threat to any person,but concedes it’s not ideal for the environment.

The department has vowed that Minister Nomvula Mokonyane will make an announcement within two months,spelling out government’s long-term solution to the acid mine drainage problem.

Ndamase says while it’s not cheap to filter acid mine water and make it drinkable,it is established practice and the treated water is safe.

He says the minister has to consider a complex situation and make the right decisions,which is why the findings of the report have not been implemented yet.

But Liefferink believes the delay is due to political red tape,which has placed the country’s water supply at risk.

While Liefferink believes the drought has only worsened the acid mine drainage problem,the department says it has reduced the volumes of contaminated water.

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