Wednesday, 15 August 2007
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Thiobacillus ferrooxidans stained ground
Typhoid is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi, which is carried by human waste. This bacterium finds its way into natural drinking water, and this contaminated water is then consumed by people who are then exposed to this disease.
1.1 Bacterium conveyed via water, are either contaminating surface water, or groundwater. Surface water is relatively easy to manage, as accessible testing methods are able to detect the levels of bacterium, chlorine and other composites found in water. Extensive monitoring of reservoirs and sample testing at selected water points can theoretically effectively control the quality of water.
1.2 During the recent Typhoid outbreak in Delmas in Mphumalanga, human waste containing the Salmonella Typhi bacteria was found in boreholes and which led to a number of people contracting the Typhoid disease. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) spokespeople indicated that the disease was as a result of poor management of water systems. They have committed themselves to embark on a series of inspections of municipalities where there may be concerns relating to water and the treatment of sewage.
During 2005 August, concerns were raised in Boksburg on the East Rand where the Elsburg Spruit, which also runs past Reiger Park and various informal settlement areas, is contaminated by mining waste from the East Rand Propriety (Pty) Ltd (ERPM) goldmine. This contaminated water is utilized for household consumption by residents of the informal settlement areas.
1.3 Due to a lack of services e.g. housing with proper sewage, water and refuge removal, these informal settlements inevitably contaminate the Elsburg Spruit (surface water) with human waste. Further down (as a matter of speaking) other informal settlement areas consume this contaminated water. The possibility of Typhoid outbreak is thus ever present should the water consumption not be addressed (primarily) and the settlement of informal settlement areas on the banks of the river (long term – secondarily) be given attention by the local authorities.
1.4 Bacterium that finds its way to the underground water table is spread through the ecological ground formation called karst.
Karst is a special type of landscape that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, including limestone and dolomite. Karst regions contain aquifers that are capable of providing large supplies of water – more than 25% of the world’s population either lives on or obtains its water from karst aquifers. Common geological characteristics of karst regions that influence human use of its land and water resources include ground subsidence, sinkhole collapse, groundwater contamination, and predictable water supply. Gauteng is almost 70% underlayed by karst, and South Africa holds 12% of the world’s karst systems, making it the largest single repository for karst in the world.
Karst systems are facing mammoth pressures from unsustainable over-exploitation in South Africa, including pollution of groundwater and surface habitat, urban development and roads, unauthorized removal of dolomites, fossils and cave formations by public and the over-use of natural resources in the areas, including lime operations and agriculture.
Karst is the backbone of the cement industry, and hosts South Africa’s future drinking supply. Karst is also habitat to three of the most endangered small mammals, all of which are bats; bats are vital to a sustainable and healthy agriculture sector, because of their role in pollination and problem invertabrate reduction.
Source: The Internet
1.5 The East Rand, Delmas and Pretoria, are all situated on the same karst, and as disease in the form of bacterium, is easily and rapidly conveyed through karst systems due to this expansive ancient conduit drainage system, it is more than likely that the typhoid disease is slowly (although progressively) geographically en route to Pretoria.
GROUNDWATER AND POSSIBLE CONTAMINATION
1.1 The natural groundwater (water table underground) and surface water have played a significant role in providing natural habitat and people with natural water for survival, agricultural purposes and household consumption.
Groundwater originates from precipitation that falls in the form of rain and seeps into the ground, filling open spaces within layers of sand or formations beneath the land surface.
1.2 In South Africa, underground mining operations have caused a disturbance in the quality of the groundwater due to Mine Acid Drainage (MAD) that seeps into the groundwater during mining operations. This is even more so the case in Gauteng which houses the most extensive mining operations in South Africa. Although the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has a water quality management program to ensure that water quality is suitable for domestic and agricultural purposes and contributes to maintaining of a health ecosystem, some of this contaminated and sometime hazardous water still find their way into streams and rivers, where human and animal and plant life are exposed to it.
1.3 Especially in Gauteng, a number of informal settlement areas have located next to natural streams and dams and catchment areas where contaminated water is eminent.
1.4 The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, who has a Water Management Function, which is extended with the establishments of Water Management Institutions, together with the nine regional offices, have made provision for policy implementation, operation, control and monitoring of water quality at an operational level.
1.5 Due to the extent and multiplicity of the management functions associated with water quality management, the Department is not considered to be the sole responsible authority of water quality management. The responsibility has shifted to include various levels of the community, industry, local government as well as individual users. It is also within this “shift in responsibility” that numerous academics and specialists believe that standards with regards to quality of water have dropped.
1.6 There are individuals and institutions that have studied the water table and groundwater levels and its composition extensively, and have come to the conclusion that Acid Rock Drainage and increasing levels of heavy metals (no, not the music ones!) have raised the contamination levels in water to such an extent that it has become hazardous for plant, animal and human consumption.
1.7 Mining water residues are polluting groundwater throughout the whole of Gauteng. Highly polluted water has been decanting into the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site for the last two years. It is estimated that forty thousand square meters of water containing heavy metals pollutes surface rivers every year. These heavy metals or sulphates contaminate groundwater almost irreversibly as a result of mining operations in Gauteng.
1.8 Around the Krugersdorp Game Park, many animals have died as a result of drinking contaminated water emanating from Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) or MAD. Even people have been diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning.
1.9 Heavy metal rich ore is transferred into the groundwater via a phoebe (bacteria), and has a long term devastated effect on health, the economy and the environment.