Report exposes high water contamination

Joel Avni

Joel Avni

Mining and agriculture along the Wonderfonteinspruit from Randfontein to Potchefstroom will have to be changed to protect hundreds of thousands of people from radiological poisoning.

The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) yesterday released a simplified report of an investigation it had commissioned to determine the threat to the public of waters poisoned by West Rand gold mines.

Even the sanitised report released yesterday showed high concentrations of radioactive chemicals that can cause cancer, kidney and liver failure and a host of other medical conditions.

The NNR has already implemented procedures to compel the West Rand mines to change the way they dispose of waste water contaminated with uranium and other radiological elements.

Cattle, poultry and crop farmers along the 100km length of the stream will also be compelled to change the way they conduct operations.

The report was hurriedly "edited" and released after the NNR suppressed two academic papers by the researchers, which were to have been presented last week at a scholarly conference on issues around mining and health.

Those papers painted a picture of a far more imminent threat to the 400000 people in Randfontein, Mogale City, Bekkersdal and other settlements along the spruit almost to Potchefstroom.

Nevertheless, NNR chief executive Maurice Magugumela said yesterday the poisoned waters and sediments posed "no impending danger to the public in the area".