Fertiliser plant contaminates KNP river

2014-01-08 22:29

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Johannesburg - An impoundment dam at Bosveld Phosphates' fertiliser plant was the cause of the spillage of contaminated water into the Selati River, the company said on Wednesday.

The spillage resulted from high rainfall during late December in the Phalaborwa area, where the plant and dam were located, Bosveld Phosphates said in a statement.

The spillage occurred on 31 December for a brief period.

"Bosveld engineers responded immediately to the emergency and the leak was repaired within 24 hours," the company said.

"It was later found that a concrete storm water canal on the site had cracked due to water pressure, allowing ingress of polluted process water and resulting in a secondary leak into the river," it said.

This had been reduced to a trickle by 1 January and stopped completely on Monday.

On Monday, SA National Parks (SANParks) said the part of the river affected was near the Phalaborwa entrance of the Kruger National Park (KNP).

"Heavy rains in Phalaborwa over the weekend of 28-29 December 2013 contributed to the overflow of the tailings dam," SANParks spokesperson Ike Phaahla said in a statement.

This resulted in highly acidic water flowing into the Selati River, he said.

"The Selati River is an important tributary of the Olifants River, arguably the most environmentally stressed major river system in South Africa and an important shared watercourse with Mozambique."

Safe water

Phaahla said the spillage was being investigated. Other affected rivers were being monitored, he said.

The water inside the KNP's tourist camps was not affected.

"SANParks took immediate precautions to ensure safe water supply to tourist camps in the park," Phaahla said at the time.

Bosveld Phosphates was confident that due to the high dilution factor caused by the Selati River's strong flows and the downstream of the Olifants River, there would be no lasting harm to the environment.

"The Bosveld team has been wrestling with a legacy water management challenge since acquiring the mothballed plant from Sasol in October 2011 and starting operations early in 2012," the company said.

"The challenge was compounded by the extraordinarily high rainfall in the Phalaborwa area over the past two years, exceeding the 1:50 year flood level in January 2012 and the 1:100 year flood level in January 2013."

This was exacerbated by the high rainfall in December.

The company would continue its efforts to put in place long-term corrective measures which had been decided on in consultation with external specialists and the relevant authorities.

"Bosveld would like to thank representatives of the department of water affairs, SANParks, Palabora Copper and Foskor for their support and assistance over the last week," it said.

Read more on:    sanparks  |  mbombela  |  environment  |  water

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