News / Africa

South Africa Monitors Impact of Toxic Spill

FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa.FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa.
x
FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa.
FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa.
A key tributary for a major river in South Africa's Kruger National Park has been contaminated by a toxic spill from a fertilizer company.  Officials with the National Parks Service say the spill has been stopped but contributed to a massive fish kill and could have ramifications for animals who drink from and live in the river.

On December 30, fishermen on the Selati River, near the western entrance to Kruger National Park, found large numbers of dead fish in the river.

Within hours, officials with the South Africa National Parks Service discovered that highly acidic water from Bosveld Phosphates, a fertilizer manufacturer run out of a former mine, had spilled into the river. 

Storm water drains running through the operation's land were contaminated with water used in the fertilizer operation because of a pipe break.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
The Selati is the last major tributary for the Olifants River, which is one of five major rivers running through Kruger.

Officials don't know the volume of contaminated water, but the spillage was going into the river for at least a week, and was finally stopped Tuesday.

Stefanie Freitag-Ronaldson, general manager of scientific services for the parks system, said the water was highly acidic, with a pH value well below the normal level of 7.

"The pH were incredibly low.  It was very acidic water that moved into the system.  In the immediate vicinity of the spillage there was very, very low pH's and that's where we got the biggest fish kill, obviously," she explained.

The parks service is using water reserves to supply clean water to tourist camps in the park.

As for the animals, rangers can't keep them all away from the Olifants River.  Eddie Riddell, the manager for water resources in the park, notes that larger animals can drink from watering holes and streams filled up by recent rainfall.

"From the perspective of maintaining water supply to the larger animals in the terrestrial ecosystem, it's not an issue at the moment.  If it was winter, in our dry winter period, then we'd have more of an issue to deal with," he said.

But Freitag-Ronaldson says that for animals who are dependent on or live in the river, the impact is yet unknown.

"Of course we are concerned about those animals that live in the river itself, such as hippos and crocodiles, and a whole host of small biota," she said. "We are also not sure when the effects of a pollution event of this nature will be manifested in those animals.  So it's basically, at this point, a monitoring game."

She says birds who feed on the dead fish might be the first sign of possible effects on other animals.

The South African parks service is awaiting numbers on how much contaminated water leaked into the river, and is starting in-depth investigations on the long-term environmental impact of the spill.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More