Stop worrying about radioactive water

2008-02-11 00:00

For old time survivalists like myself and my friends, the collapse of Eskom and the contamination of the water system are not crises, but merely problems to be solved.

We owe this devil-may-care attitude to our former occupation of not-quite-abandoned brick houses in Impendle village, way back in the seventies. At that time most of us were Natal or Tech academics based in Durban and Impendle offered the blessed opportunity of a weekend retreat.

The houses we rented for a handful of small change belonged to the Department of Justice and had been built in 1880. Toilets were (how can I put this tastefully?) detached from the main building and had tiny views of the surrounding country visible though a crescent-shaped slit cut artfully in what had once been a door. There was no plumbing and the only sounds apart from those emitted from time to time by the occupant came from wasps or maybe hornets.

For light, we used a little Honda generator, while water bubbled serenely from a lonely standpipe in the asparagus patch, diverted from a mountain spring. We heated this once a day in a Rhodesian boiler made of a 44-gallon drum fuelled by wattle sticks. It was frightfully rural and quite excessively William Morris.

But now, thanks to the long-delayed arrival of freedom in 1994, we have similar facilities on the Berea, in Durban.

Rumour, that cross-eyed bitch, tells us that Eskom, a high-Romantic organisation located in the halcyon past, cannot cope with the immediate present. This means that radio-controlled devices run by the Metro will limit the electricity available to your geyser. And if that isn’t bad enough, the rivers are full of shit and nameless red stuff. To make things even worse, radioactive ground water has been located in what used to be called the Transvaal.

Well, like I said at the beginning of this piece, these are not crises, but interesting problems to be solved. We begin with the dangerous untruths about radioactive water. If this is true, which is unlikely, it is very good news indeed. For a start, the radioactivity in the water will cause the microscopic E. coli bacteria to mutate. Mutation, for the one or two dogged Creationists reading this, is a high-speed evolutionary process. In the case of the local E. coli, they will — in the winking of an eye — become truly huge, about the size of a Smartie or maybe a chocolate raisin. As a result, removal of them from the water will be a simple matter of tweezers and good eye-hand co-ordination.

But that’s not all. Radioactive water has another benefit for post-freedom South Africans. Radioactivity provides its own heat. Of course lots of this heat presents problems — just ask the survivors of Chernobyl if you can find any. However, in smallish quantities of the kind that may be flowing through the Vaal, all this means is that the water will be bathroom hot and ready to go. Who needs geysers in a time like this? Brothers and sisters, the only thing to fear is fear itself, as the chicken in every pot cooks itself in free radioactive water. The only remaining problem is converting the Rhodesian boiler to run in reverse, so that it becomes a wattle-powered refrigerator. Stay tuned.

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