Thursday 21 June 2012

Breathing Raw Sewage

Breathing Raw Sewage
Sebokeng Hostels is situated in the South of Johannesburg in the Vaal Triangle.  This area is well known for rent by court in 1983 that lead into to Vaal uprising in 1984. Sebokeng Hostel used to host the immigrant worker who is working in the factories in the Vaal Triangle.  The hostel is under the control of the Emfulweni Local Municipality.

Today the area has been turned into the family Unit, many immigrant workers fetched their families to come and stay with them.  Because overcrowded, there are lots of people staying there now. There are eight people staying in one unit sometimes even more. Some people build shacks outside the unit and have increase capacity of water usage and sanitation.  Beside the problem of the area being over crowded the infrastructure in that area is very old and not maintained.
There is open storm water drainage, when the sewage pipes bust it goes straight into this drainage water storm drainage and it goes into Rietspruit River and Vaal River. The people staying next open water drainage has been complaining about being exposing to the unpleasant smells. People have been complaining about stomach problem from drinking water, because the water pipe and sewer system are combined.  There are cases whereby people when they open their pumps in the houses what comes out is sewage.

What is the Health Problem Associated with the Raw Sewage?
The health hazards of inhaling the smell of raw sewage are not likely an immediate threat but contact with contaminants and bacteria is a cause of illness. Particles of raw sewage are able to become airborne, however, and inhalation of these particles causes adverse health effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Raw sewage poses the biggest threat to public health when it enters the water supply, where it is diluted and spread much wider than where it originated. While boiling water before consuming it minimizes the risk of waterborne illness, there is a high risk of potentially deadly diseases such as cholera and dysentery from drinking water contaminated with raw sewage.
This water goes straight into Vaal River
Water and Sewage
Sewage can also kill fish, if it enters a waterway, and it can pose health risks to other animals. Sewage spills may also lead to algae blooms, as organisms feed on the sewage and reproduce in large numbers. Once sewage enters a waterway or the groundwater, getting rid of it can be a very costly endeavour.
Who is responsible?
Sewer and drinking water in Emfulweni it is the responsibility if Metsi –a-Lekoa, if there is a spillage metsi-a – lekoa has to be notified. Samson Mokoena and VEJA monitor Dudu Diphoka visited the area after and they have witness the spillages, communities says that the spillages has been taking place for three days and now they tired of calling the municipality, the response they are getting is that there is no funds and the people are also contribute to the problem.
What are the recommendations?
In the last meeting of the Rietspruit water catchment Forum, Department of the Water Affairs promised to go and investigate the problem, the municipality must also invest on installing new infrastructure. But it going to take long time before the situation can be resolve. People cannot continue living the way they living. That area is chaotic, it need to be rehabilitated as soon as possible. Samson Mokoena who went there came back very worry about the kids growing up in that area. He also said there is no need for local municipality to refuse to clean up the area; clearly the lives of the people are at risk. Monitors an youth in that area will take an action against this issue in the month of July. It will go to the community, write memo's to the responsible authorities.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

No transparency ! No transpancy

Accessing Information through Promotion of Access on Information Act

Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance received training from South African History Archives about PAIA and how to use this legislation to access environmental and other information. Since December 2011, VEJA has been working with the Centre for Environmental Right(CER)  to request access to information from Sasol Chemical Industry, Natref, Ominia, Anglo Coal: Thermai Coal, ArcelorMittal, as well as various government department.

We, the affected community, living in highly industrial area, and the water we are drink and air we breath are highly toxic. We have every right to have access to information so that we able to protect our constitutional right to a healthy environment and participate meaningfuly as interested  and affected parties.

What is Promotion of Access on Information Act and its Purpose

The purpose of the Act is to give effect to the constitutional right of access to any information held by the State and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights. The Bill of Right is the cornerstone of South Africa democracy and section 32 contains the right.  The information tha  VEJA requests is to exercise or protect environmental rights, but also impacts on human dignity and social rights.

The Promotion of Access to Information Act was promulgated in 2000, amongst other things was to
- foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public and private bodies by giving effect to the right of access to information;
- actively promote a society in which the people of South Africa have effective access to information to enable them to more fully exercise and protect all of their rights.

PAIA provides that access to information must be granted, unless there is a valid ground in PAIA to refuse such access,. If a requestis refused, adequate reasons must be provided for the refusal, including the provions of PAIA relied upon. If a requester wants to challenge the decision of a private body to refuse access to documents, court proceedings must be lodged within 180 days of the refusal. In the case of a decision of a public body ( such as a government department), PAIA makes procedure for an internalappeal to be lodged before court proceedings are launched.

So far, On behalf of VEJA, the CER submitted several applications to the companies set out below:

1. Environmental Master plan and related documents, and numerous documents related to its Vaal Dump site: to ArcelorMittal;
2. Water use license ( and any pending applications),as well as water monitoing results: to Sasol; Natref; and Omnia; and 
3. Mining right and permit/license( and any pending appliactions); the current approvedEnvironmental Management Programme( EMPR); all compliance reports submitted to the Departmentof Mineral Resources ( DMR) in terms of the EMPR from date of issue to date; the quatum and method of approved financial provision for rehabilitation; the water use licence( and any pending applications ) and water monitoring results submitted to the Department of Water Affairs( DWA) in terms of the water use license from date of issue to date: Anglo New Vaal Colliery.
These and other revalent documets were also also requested from the relevanjt government departments.
1. Environmental Master Plan and illegal Vaal Dump site 
Access to all of this information was denied by ArcelorMittal. ArcelorMittal. In about 1996 , following extensive pollution by the steel-making industry, Iscor ( as it then was) presented the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry( DWAF- as it then was) with a 10 year" Strategic Water Management Pla". This plan was appareantly subject to a gap analysis and the outcome of the analysis provided the basis on which the Environmental Master Plan was formulated by Mittal to address its environmental issues and the serious pollution in the area. Studies for the Master Plan were initiated in July 2000. Over the years, the Master Plan has been has been a crucial document during Iscor's/ArcelorMittal'S negotiations with DWAF/DWA nad in license appliacations.

The DWA refused VEJA access to the Master Plan on the bases that: it was neither the originator , nor the custodian of the information requested. The Gauteng Department of Agriculture  and Rural Development( GDARD) has refusedto give VEJA any documents relating to the Vaal Dump site because they say that the discloure of the records could prejudice the future supply of similar information, or infomation fromthe same source; and it is in the public interest that such information continue to be supplied.

For various reasons, VEJA and CER take the view that thse departments cannot rely on these grounds for refusal. Internal appeals have been submitted in relation to both the DWA and GDARD refusals. Although the time period in PAIA for providing responses to the internal appeals has expired, no response has yet been received, GDARD has indicated that the MEC has yet considered the internal appeal, and that VEJA and CER will be advised as soon as the MEC has done so.

Sasol Infrachen, Natref, Omnia and Anglo Coal New Vaal Colliery

VEJA and CER also used the PAIA to request documents from these companies that forms Leei-Taaibochspruit  Catchment Management Forum (LTF) in the northern Free State Province. As set out above, the documents that were requested were water use licences( and pending applications), as well as water monitorng results. 

In realtion to Anglo, various other documents were requested, as there is currently an envieonmental authorisation process underway in relation to the Lethabo power station. In this regard, a PAIA application was also made to the DMR. It has also only provided certain of the information requested, but failed to provide reansons for the refusal to provide other documents. The CER in regular contact with the DMR in this regard, and VEJA intends to launch an internal appeal

The requestas relating to water use licences and water monitoring results were prompted by the experience of VEJA's water team in participatingin the LTF- it found out that all these big companies in the catchment were not reporting their water effluent results to the stakeholders at the forum level. Although the results were sent to DWA, it was not making them available to the stakeholders.

CER and VEJA mae the request in April 2012, and ( apart from Anglo which made its water use lincence and mining right available), these companies responded with letters requesting meetings with VEJA and CER before they would make documents available. In early May 2012, VEJA and CER met with Anglo; on the 10th May 2012, we met with Saspl, and with Natref on the 30th May 2012. Following the meeting with Anglo, it refused to make any other documents available, claiming that they needed tp protect commercial information of a third party and a private body. Sasol and Natref provided 4 months of water monitoring results, copies of water permits and exemptions in terms of the old Water Act, 1956, as well as some detail relating to its pending applications for a water use licence. Omnia refused access to information on the same basis as Anglo. CER has sent follow-up letters with various queries to all of these companies.

In response to the PAIA application to it, the DWA only provided a copy of the Omnia water use licence and indicated that the other licences were still pending. VEJA's water team asked the DWA why the other water use licences were still pending, and has not been provided with a satisficatory response.

CER has written to the DWA with varoius queries, including a request for copies of the applications for water use licenses. Should this information not be provided, VEJA intends to launch an internal appeal.

In the letters to Sasol, Natref and the DWA, enquires were made as to which reasonable steps hasd been taken to ensure that the companies do not ensure that the companies do not commiut ant act or omission: which polluters or is likely to pollute a water resource; and which detrimentally affects or is likely to affect a water resource; and that they had taken all reasonable measures to prevent pollution of a continuing or recurring.

This exercise has proven to VEJA that there is little accountability and transparancy to the public. This information we have sought should be made public - it will enable us to evaluate and monitor effectively. it is concerning that , in many cases, both industry and governement appear to be hindering communities' access to this information.

The documents that were requested are relating to Water Use Licence and any Permit and Water results for the last 4 month from all these companies.

These came after VEJA water team participating in Leei-Taai Boshspriet Water Forum found out that all these big companies in the catchment they were not reporting their water effluent results to the stakeholders at the forum level and the results were sent to Department of water affairs and the department where not making them available to the stakeholders.

CER and VEJA started these processes in April and immediately these companies responded with letters demanding to meet with VEJA and CER. In April VEJA and CER met with Anglo Coal, on the 10th we met with Sasol and Natref on the 30thMay 2012. Anglo gave mining right and water use license, Sasol gave us water permits and exemption and Natref gave permits, exemption and the result of their effeluent. These documents were issued under the National Water act 54 of 1956. Omnia Respond is that they water use licence as well as the data requested contain confidential business.
These accompanies where supposed to be operating under the national water act of 1998 and all of them where supposed to have a water used licence so that the department of water affairs caN monitor compliance in the Leei-Taai Catchment in terms of National Water Act of 1998.

The water Team has asked the DWA why they have not processes the water use licence of all these companies and no response has been given
This exercise has proven to us that there is no accountability and transparency. This information that we asking we for its public information. It will help us to be able to evaluate and monitor effectively. But industries and government want to make sure communities do not get this information.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Eskom needs more coal to Expand Lethabo Powe Station

Proposed Life Extension of new Vaal Environmental Impact Assessment

Vaal Triangle considered as one of the economic hub of Gauteng and Free State, also continues to be the “environmental hotspot “in South Africa. This “environmental hotspot” comes as result of several heavy industries integrated with highly populated residential areas, which most people using coal for space heating and cooking during winter. Whilst these industries are considered as having a positive economic impact, they contribute to several negative impacts in the area including air and water pollution.

The purpose of Anglo American Life Extension Project
Over the years we have seen significant increase in development and expansion projects that invariably have some impact on surrounding communities and the environment in Vaal Triangle.  Starting from April 2010, Anglo American Thermal a division of Anglo Operations Coal appointed Golder Associates to conduct a public participation on the Life Extension of new Vaal Environmental Impact Assessment.

Accoriding to the bid document, Eskom needs a secure coal supply to keep the Lethabo Power Station running until 2050. Anglo American Thermal Coal can fulfil this requirement if the life of the existing New Vaal Colliery (NVC) is extended by 20 years. AOL proposes to extend its existing opencast mining operations by mining new coal reserves which are located to the south of NVC, situated approximately 5 kilometres east of Sasolburg and approximately 10 kilometres south of Vereeniging in the northern Free State Province. AOL proposes to blend coal from NVC with coal from the proposed new operations to the south of the existing mine. These operations will include both opencast and underground mining within the New Cornelia Block 1 and New Cornelia Vaalbank reserves. The life extension Project is known as the NVC Lifex Project.  As above mentioned that starting from April 2010, the AOL conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment as required by the National Environmental Management Act (Act No.107 of 1998)
Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance found out about the project after the scoping phase has been done, we never knew about this project from the beginning. We got worried about the impact of this type of a project.  As we all know maybe from reading our past posts, Vaal has been declared a pollution hotspot area( Priority) meaning the area need special attention to be able to mitigate the high levels of pollution. If our government allows this type of development, then it is failing the intention of the declaretions. We were also concern about public participation process, there was no maximum participation.  But we managed to submit our comments through Centre for Environmental Rights. Amongst other things in our submission we raised our concern about the following:
-          Public Participation Process
-          Impossible to determine the real environmental impacts particularly on the quality of water , air and
-          High value of agricultural land
-          Soil on local food production and food security in the future
-          Health issues
-          Bio –diversity
-          Particulate Matter( dust)
-          Monitoring

After submitting our commend Anglo asked to meet with Centre for Environmental Rights and VEJA. On the 2nd May 2012 the meeting took place at Anglo American. The purpose of the meeting was to understand Background, how is this project going to impact on air quality, water and LAND. We then embarked on a tour to Eco Park, water treatment plant and drive pass open cast mine and a new proposed site.  We think we achieved most of the thing we wanted. We agreed there will be further engagements once the specialised report is being finalised and VEJA will be fully involved in this process. We asked Anglo to send us the water use license and mineral rights and we got them. The additional information we asked for is the air quality data and water samples result.
What is Environmental Impact Assessment?
We have realised many people in the community still don’t know what is Environmental Impact Assessment and why it is important for them to participate. Many people even when they do participate in the Environmental Impact Assessment they only concern about employment more than anything else. Many people are unable to engage with the companies around questions of how the project is going to affect their health and Environment. I cannot really blame the uniformed communities, often environmental issues are seen as technical and only doctors and professors as the only people who understand them better. People know that the air we breathe is full of toxic and bad smells and their child are suffering from asthma or respiratory illness you don’t need to be a doctor.

Environmental Impact Assessment is process where all affected communities need to be consulted and the concerns , issues, queries and suggestions that community may have regarding the proposed development need to considered and addressed. In South Africa we have several Environmental Laws. To put these laws into effects, the main legislation in South Africa is the Constitution (1996). Included in the constitution is the Bill of Rights. Section 24, chapter 2 entrenched that everyone has a right to environment that is not harmful to their  health or well-being and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that:
-          Prevent pollution and ecological degradation
-          Promote conservation; and
-          Secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural while promoting justifiable economic and social development
Another Important Law we have in South Africa is National Environmental Management Act (107), 1996(NEMA). One of the main purpose of NEMA is  to provide for co-operative environmental governance by establishing principles for decision making on matters affecting the environment and there are other purposes  This act gone through many amendments. In April 2006 the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism passed environmental impact assessment regulations in terms of chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
The objective of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations is to establish the procedures that must be followed in the consideration, investigation, assessment and reporting for any proposed development.  The purpose of this procedures is to provide the competent authority with adequate information to make decisions which ensures that activities which may impact negatively on the environment to an unacceptable degree are not authorised, and that activities which are authorised are undertaken in such a manner that the environmental impact are managed to acceptable levels.

The procedures are also intended to ensure that:
-        The minimum information is necessary for decision- making is provided;
-          Adequate information is provided to interested and affected parties( I&P’S) enable them to participate effectively
-          Issues, impact and alternatives are considered and assessed in a structured and objective manner ; and
-          The requirement for the management over the life cycle of activities.
Eskom Power Plant with the capacity of 3600 MW ( Lethabo)
To cut a long story short, the immediate aim of EIA is to provide information for decision making process by identifying potentially significant environmental effects and risks of development proposal. Long term aim of EIA is to promote environmentally sound and sustainable solutions.

We heard that the Minister from Mineral and Energy Susan Shabangu talking about cleaner coal. Alternative energy model is necessary, the question is when South Africa is going to start investing on new cleaner technology. For the next 20 years Eskom will be using Anglo's dirty coal. Right now South African government is busy giving permissions to coal mines to expand, Eskom is building two massive coal fired stations. I find this statement from the Minister contradicting with what is happening right now and in the future. On the other hand we also talking about global warming. South Africa is one of the countries that pledged to limit emissions of greenhouse in Durban. How are they going to keep their promoses when Eskom, ArcelorMittal, BHP Billiton and Sasol deciding on future of economic path.

Anglo is saying if they do not proceed with operation, mining of these coal reserves will not necessary be avoided, as another application in terms of MPRDA can be made by another company. Unless the government declares the area"off limits" .

Saturday 21 April 2012

Get nature in order


South Africa has trusted itself very much into the environmental spotlight, being listed as among the top 20 carbon dioxide producing nations in the world (on the negative side) and by seemingly positive developments such as:
The United Nations Climate Change Conference that was hosted in Durban from 28 November to 9 December 2011, with the  imposing theme " WORKING TOGETHER Saving Tomorrow Today".
Under the National Climate Change Respoinse White Paper, Published in October 2011. This fairly impressive document is summarised in the obejctive:
“South Africa will build the climate resilience of the country, its economy and its people and manage the transition to a climate-resilient, equitable and internationally competitive lower-carbon economy and society in a manner that simultaneously addresses South Africa’s over-riding national priorities for sustainable development, job creation, improved public and environmental health, poverty ereadication, and social equitality. In nthis regards, South Africa Will:
  • Effectively manage inevitable climate change impacts through interventions that build and sustain South Africa’s social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity.
  • Make fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that avoids dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system within a time frame that enables economic, and environmental development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
But the question reamains of how South Africa is going to achieve this very noble goals as set out above?
Major emitters have been named (not yet shamed), amongst which is ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) – it is being placed forth in South Africa with a figure of 10.73 million tonnes/year of CO being emitted (Carbon Disclosure Project – 2010). Examining the response of the Government to AMSA in the past, one could not help but to conclude that the “soft” approach to AMSA (and it’s often total disregard of the environment) was slightly tinted by the carrot of a ZAR 9.1 billion empowerment deal AMSA was dangling, that would have involved the “sale” of 26% of it’s shares to black investors – which coincidentally included the son of President Zuma. After AMSA announced the scrapping of the deal in September 2011, due mostly to the negative reaction the deal elicited – not least from ArcelorMittal shareholders – as it was not done in a transparent way (rather in the ArcelorMittal way!), can the public now expect AMSA to be held ccountable for it’s misdeeds?

Not only does AMSA produce vast amounts of CO 2, but also of CH4 -  Methane  - a greenhouse gas with  a warming potential over 100 years of 25X that of CO2 (Shindell, D.T.;Faluvegi, G; koch, D.M, Schmidt,G.A.;Unger, N; Bauer, S.E. ( 2009). " Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions". Science 326( 953):716-8)

One of the main sources of CH 4 production is from gas flaring  -  with 4 production is from gas flaring -  with 0.27 metric tonnes being produced per ton CO2 released from flaring, effectively increasing the effect of their emissions - when measured against direct CO2 being emitted -  considerably. In 2003 a company called EcoElectrica (a female empowerment group) started negotiations with ISCOR ( which later became ISPAT-ISCOR, when Mr. Laksami Mittal took it over, then Mittal Steel -  then finally ArcelorMittal) to develop a project generate electricity from the gas being flared in Vanderbijlpark. After working with EcoElectrica on the basis of a joint venture on the project duing 2006. ArcelorMittal eventually withdrew from the project and pursued it themselves -  leaving EcoElectrica the option of a legal balttle if they wanted to protect their rights. At the end of 2007( December) AMSA even filled a Project Design Document ( PDD) with the UNFCC for registration of a Clean Development Mechanism ( CDM) - project entitled:" ArcelorMittal South Africa Supuls Gas to Energy Project".

In 2008 AMSA filed a scoping report called “ENVIRONMENTAL SCOPING REPORT FOR THE INSTALLATION OF A POWER GENERATING PLANT USING EXCESS FURNACE BY-PRODUCT GASES, ARCELORMITTAL SOUTH AFRICA - VANDERBIJLPARK WORKS, VANDERBIJLPARK”. This plant is still to be completed and in a issue of Engineering News dated 29 July 2010 it quoted the CEO of Vanderbijlpark – Johan Fourie telling Engineering News that the group is still assessing the economics of the different power projects, "some big, others small", adding that not all the opportunities would necessarily prove viable. That is a look at but some of the gasses being directly released by AMSA into the atmosphere.

With cognisance of the “Waste Management Flagship Programme” contained in the Governmental White Paper, the solid waste being produced my AMSA also warrants a closer look. In 2009 AMSA produced 3.5 million tonnes of waste material at its Vanderbijlpark facility (ArcelorMittal South Africa Sustainability Report 2009). Although the plant has a capacity of 4.4 million tonnes of liquid steel (ArcelorMittal South Africa Sustainability Report 2009), it produces roughly about 3.5 million tonnes per year (Engineering News, & January 2008).This equates to 1 ton of waste for each ton of steel being produced. In a similar vein to the gas recycling project referred to above, a Brick making project was also proposed to Vanderbijpark in 2003. It went a few steps further, with the plant being constructed on the Vanderbijlpark site. It got a formal mention in the Sustainability Report, 2009 (quoted above). AMSA stated under the heading “Waste Reduction Projects” that Phase 1 of the clay brick project would reduce disposal through dumping by 150 000 ton per annum, and that phase 1 was to have been implemented in 2010 with “commercial negotiations in progress”. Solid waste being dumped on the open dumpsites at the Vanderbijpark plant could have been worked away through the manufacturing of clay bricks. The first dump site at the plant was closed in December 2010, holding about 140 million cubic meters of solid waste material – according to Karien Zantov – Environmental Manager for AMSA (quoted in Engineering News, July 2011). In addition this plant could also have used flared gas, and it could have used waste water from the steel plant.

All efforts to get this plant operational by the developing company has been frustrated by AMSA and they have apparently initiated a process to buy the plant and process out, but have been stalling the process since 2009 – whilst millions more tonnes of waste material have been dumped. Although this material does not directly contribute to any GHG emissions, it remains at risk to combust due to the high carbon content of some of the material being dumped. All the while though, it leaches materials such as iron, boron, manganese, magnesium, sodium, calcium and lithium (to name but a few elements) into the ground and into the Vaal River system. The local inhabitants around the plant has been for years trying to fight this, but has been stymied with AMSA’s financial might and “untouchable” tag (maybe as a result of the BEE deal referred to herein?). Lithium for example is known corrosive and requires special handling to avoid skin contact. Breathing lithium dust or lithium compounds (which are often alkaline) initially irritate the nose and throat, while higher exposure can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs, leading to pulmonary edema. The metal itself is a handling hazard because of the caustic hydroxide produced when it is in contact with moisture. Lithium is safely stored in non-reactive compounds such as naphtha. (Furr, A. K. (2000). CRC handbook of laboratory safety. Boca Raton: CRC Press. pp. 244–246.) The combined Lithium leachate of all the waste streams dumped at Vanderbijlpark is 4.2 parts per million, whilst for Manganese it is 1 458 parts per million. Wikipedia cites the following:

Manganese compounds are less toxic than those of other widespread metals such as nickel and copper.[42] However, exposure to manganese dusts and fumes should not exceed the ceiling value of 5 mg/m3 even for short periods because of its toxicity level.[43] Manganese poisoning has been linked to impaired motor skills and cognitive disorders.[44] The permanganate exhibits a higher toxicity than the manganese(II) compounds. The fatal dose is about 10 g, and several fatal intoxications have occurred. The strong oxidative effect leads to necrosis of the mucous membrane. For example, the esophagus is affected if the permanganate is swallowed. Only a limited amount is absorbed by the intestines, but this small amount shows severe effects on the kidneys and on the liver.[45][46] In 2005, a study suggested a possible link between manganese inhalation and central nervous system toxicity in rats.[47] It is hypothesized that long-term exposure to the naturally occurring manganese in shower water puts up to 8.7 million Americans at risk.[47][48][49] A form of neurodegeneration[50] similar to Parkinson's Disease called "manganism" has been linked to manganese exposure amongst miners and smelters since the early 19th century.[51] Allegations of inhalation-induced manganism have been made regarding the welding industry. Manganese exposure in United States is regulated by Occupational Safety and Health Administration.[52]According to results from a 2010 study,[53] higher levels of exposure to manganese in drinking water are associated with increased intellectual impairment and reduced intelligence quotients in school-age children.

Clinical toxicity Manganism has occurred in persons employed in the production or processing of manganese alloys, patients receiving total parenteral nutrition, workers exposed to manganese-containing fungicides such as maneb, and abusers of drugs such as methcathinone made with potassium permanganate. Excessive exposure may be confirmed by measurement of blood or urine manganese concentrations.[54] Chronic exposure to excessive Mn levels can lead to a variety of psychiatric and motor disturbances, termed manganism. Generally, exposure to ambient Mn air concentrations in excess of 5 μg Mn/m3 can lead to Mn-induced symptoms. Increased ferroportin protein expression in human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cells is associated with decreased intracellular Mn concentration and attenuated cytotoxicity, characterized by the reversal of Mn-reduced glutamate uptake and diminished lactate ehydrogenase (LDH) leakage.[55](End of Wikipedia quote) A study by the American Environment Protection Agency (EPA) called “Drinking Water Health Advisor for Manganese” dated January 2004 quote the under-mentioned study regarding the effects of manganese contamination through leaching into drinking water: A recently published case study (Woolf et al., 2002) reported increased manganese levels in the hair and blood of a 10-year-old child exposed to increased manganese in drinking water. The child had been ingesting drinking water supplied by a well for 5 years prior to a clinic visit for evaluation of over-exposure to manganese. In addition, the family lived in a house near a toxic waste dump. An evaluation of the well water performed four months prior to the child's health assessment indicated that manganese and iron levels in the water were both elevated, with concentrations of 1.21(reference level, 0.05 mg/L) and 15.7 mg/L, respectively.

The child's whole blood and serum manganese levels were 3.82 :g/100 ml (reference normal, <1.4 :g/100 ml) and 0.90 :g/100 ml (reference normal, <0.265 :g/100 ml), respectively. The child's hair manganese level was 3,091 ppb of washed, acid-digested hair (reference normal, <260 ppb hair). Although the child's 16-year-old brother did not exhibit elevated blood manganese, he did have increased manganese in his hair. The 10-year-old did not exhibit any clinical effects of manganese over-exposure (cogwheeling, abnormally high muscle tone, fixed facies, etc.) and had good balance with closed eyes, although he did have trouble coordinating rapid alternating motor movements(this deficiency is consistent with the test performance of occupational workers chronically exposed to airborne manganese). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the child's brain did not indicate any hyperintense signaling of the globus pallidus, basal ganglia, mid-brain or pons, which would indicate manganese deposition in these areas of the brain. Selective deposition of manganese in the globus pallidus and basal ganglia has been shown to occur in children and adults with chronic manganese overexposure (Devenyi et al., 1994; Hauser et al.1996). The absence of the signaling argues against manganese toxicity.  Results from a battery of neuropsychologic tests on the child indicated that global cognition was unimpaired.

While the plight of the residents around the Vanderbijlpark plant has been ignored in the past, it cannot be refuted that the leaching danger from the Vanderbijlpark dup-site and the continuation of the dumping practices of AMSA pose very real dangers. AMSA are one of the few remaining iron and steel producers worldwide that utilise open dumpsites for the disposal of their waste material. This gives them a massive cost of production advantage over their competitors that dispose of waste material to regulated dump sites (at a substantial price per ton of waste material). They clearly have proven solutions to some of their biggest environmental problems at hand, but chose not to employ these, as it is altogether too easy for them to continue with “business as usual” - as they are firstly allowed to do so, and secondly care more about making the extra profit, than spending it on a long-term strategy that will also benefit the rest of the people in South Africa, and the environment directly. Instead, as illustrated above, they choose to pay lipservice to their “commitment” to the environment. For South Africa – being squarely in the environmental spot-light at the moment – it is clearly a case of action speaking louder than words, and how the Government chose to act against companies like ArcelorMittal in the light of some of its practices illuminated herein will ultimately be how the Government will be judged in terms of its commitment to the environment in general.

Vaal River water resource management areas are under Threat

Vaal River System

Vaal River passing Vereeninging
The department of Water Affairs hosted the 6th strategy steering committee meeting for Integrated Water Resource Management. The meeting was held on the 19th April in Pretoria. Amongst other stakeholders Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance participated in the meeting represented by Samson Mokoena and Phenias Malapela.

This committee deals with different interventions within the Vaal River Systems,  and the strategies that are being implemented are as following:

  • Integrated Water Quality Management,
  • Water use compliance and  enforcement (eradication of illegal irrigation water use) in the Vaal River System,
  • Gauteng Municipalities Water Conservation and Water Demand Management,
  • The classification of significant water resources in the Upper, Middle and lower Vaal water management areas.
According to the Department of Water Affairs these are important interventions and they need to be implemented immediately because they course a significant threat to the security of water supply in the Vaal River System and they needs special attention,

For the first time we have seen DWA taking the issue of enforcement and compliance very seriously. The eradication of illegal irrigation has received a special attention from the Minister of Water Affairs, she has made it clear that the farmers that steals water from the Vaal river they will be dealt with harshly, she even took a special visit to one farmer and took out his irrigation pumps. We welcome these and it is shown from the reports that if the illegal irrigations are not dealt with accordingly the future of water supply in Gauteng will be compromised by these activities of illegal use.The are 8525 properties that are irrigating in the entire Vaal River System 1202 are unlawful users, 1361 verification completed, verification not started 3 927, validated completed 6900, validation in process 1894.

Irrigation's next to Vaal River
According to DWA,the must be regulations and measurements of taking water for irrigation purposes, but these regulations have not been published, and these has course the confusion within the farming community as who is the unlawful water users.  According to official within DWA these is delaying effective actions against partially unlawful water users the issue of addressing unlawful water users is receiving a high priority in the regional offices according to DWA.

The biggest problem that is facing the Vaal River System is the Water Quality in the Upper, Middle and Lower Vaal, these problems comes from different pollution sources such as untreated sewage from non-functioning municipal Waste Water Treatment Works, industrial effluents, Acid Mine Drainage and other activities that are happening within the Vaal River System. Department has received complains from communities and civil society groups complaining about the continuity of pollution within  Vaal River System that is causing health hazards.

If you think of people of Tumahole in Parys that do not have clean drinking water because of the pollution and the failer of local municipality to purify water for drinking purposes, and we have not seen the Minister of Water Affairs taking a strong stand against the municipalities that discharge the row sewage in the Vaal River System. The question is why DWA have not yet take a single approach in dealing with the threat in the Vaal System. In numerous occasions  the civil society has question DWA on the mining companies that are mushrooming with in the Vaal River System operating without Water Use licences, and municipalities that does not comply with the Water use licences and no actions has been takes against them,

From the DWA the issue of compliance and enforcement is receiving attention within regional offices and the Project Letsema has been well publish  but the numbers has not got out to civil society and concerned citizens. We hope that the minister will visit these mines and close them down and visit municipalities like Ngwathe in Northern Free State and deal with officials that do not care for the poor who are still struggling to get access to clean drinking water and sanitation because of pollution and Mal-administration within government.

Algae at Vaal Barrage
We hope that the Integrated Water Quality Management Strategy will receive the attention like Gauteng Municipalities Water Conservation and Demand Management Strategy and other strategies within DWA. we hope that we will get a report back from DWA on Letsema Project to fast track the issue of water use licenses so that all who contravene the low like the unlawful irrigation users can be punished. As Citizens also want our rights to be protected and our dignity be restored and we hope that the minister will treat water as a common not as a commodity that must be trade on for the one section of society at the expenses of the majority.

Friday 20 April 2012

Stealing our Tomorrow

People from Steel Valley

Iscor plant now called ArcelorMittal
Samson Mokoena is the Coordinator of Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, before he was the Chairperson of Steelvalley Crisis Committee. The committee was launched in May 2002 as a response to the groundwater and air pollution caused by ISCOR, one of the biggest steel mills on the African continent.  Samson is sharing with us how ArcelorMittal affected his family and other families lived in the area called Steel Valley. Steel Valley is situated South Johannesburg.
We are not sure whyy the area was called Steel Valley but what we know is that the people who were staying there where only whites who were working for ISCOR. Like other families, my father came to live in steel valley Linkholm area after the first democratic elections in 1994. My father was a construction worker at ISCOR. Because of a secure job, he received a loan from the bank to buy a small holding. For him, a dream was coming true. Not only was he able to continue with his farming skills that he received when growing up in the Free State. I recall my childhood, we had sufficient food from our farm plots and still additional income from cattle rising or chicken production.  

After a while we were joined by other black people in Steel Valley, forming a small location. Not knowing what is happening with water and why white people who were staying there before us moved out.  Animals started to die and many of us became sick. We could trace the root cause of al our problems to groundwater pollution. We discovered our water was polluted and many people started to complain about the water they drink. We also discovered that the source was from 10 big unlined evaporation dams inside ISCOR plant, from huge, 125 ha large uncovered slack dams as well as a cannel running from ISCOR steel mill through our farming area right into the Vaal River.

In 2000, ISCOR agreed to compensate about 400 property owners because of environmental pollution. Hundred and Fifty properties were left out of this offer. In 2004, my father decided to negotiate with ISCOR and other families. Iscor agreed to pay him as little as R165, 000 for a 2 ha plot and a spacious 4 room house. Loss of other properties, like several cows and poultry as well as health damage was not considered. Especially my mother suffers from sinus, itchy eyes and kidney failure.

It was sad to see a vibrant, colourful area slowly starting to 2004 die. In 2008 there were only 30 families left.  Other people took their entire pension fund and bought a small holding, that later discovered to mean nothing to them.  One of the people who took all her money is Rachel Bodibe. She got sick since she moved to the area. She lived in the area with her grandchild surrounded by electric fence put by ISCOR because she refused to accept the settlement. She did not have clean water and ISCOR refuse to negotiate with her about her sickness. At the age of 70 she was still fighting against one of the biggest company, later on she was then evicted.

Samson Mokoena entering ArcelorMittal offices in Luxenburg
Teboho Makume is also one of the people who were surrounded by electric fence after refusing the settlement. He is been staying in the area since 1994. He wanted be a farmer, he had 19 cows and in 2004 was only left with 6 cows because other died due to drinking polluted water. Like other families, Makume’s family suffers from ISCOR activities.  Because the whole family was sickly and farming was not possible any longer, Teboho’s father decided to leave the place with his wife and eight children. Unfortunately, their cows started to die, the dream of Makume’s family to Practice and earn a living from farming has been destroyed.  Iscor has offered them R65, 000 compensation for 1 and half ha plot and four bedroom house. However, this amount is not sufficient to buy another plot. Teboho is staying in a plot without drinking and cooking water. His father delivers about 20 litre of water every week. Like Rachel, Teboho is leaving a very lonely life with all neighbours gone and the community life wiped out. There are many people some of them lost more than 15 cows.   There are people who lived next the slack dams, died of kidney failure and cancer, there were people that could not stay outside because of the dust and air pollution from the slack dams, the family does not stay outside the house because of respiratory.
Iscor Destroyed our land and our heritage
When you visit area nowadays, you can hardly imagine that this used to be a vibrant community with small scale farms, shops, a filling station, a mobile clinic and other communal infrastructure. The area is dived by electric fences, public roads have been closed, people cannot easily move in the area. Only four families left now out of 500 house, steal refusing to sell their properties.
In 2008 a group called Global Action on ArcelorMittal was established. The group consist of organisation such as Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance and other groups from Ohio(USA), Romania, India, Ukraine, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The purpose of this group is unite all people who across the globe who are affected by ArcelorMittal Activities. By sharing information with other group across the globe we have realised that ArcelorMittal success has largely been paid by the communities living and working near the company plants.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

November to December ( “WORKING TOGETHER Saving Tomorrow)

Communities writng down their demand for COP17 in Zamdela
VEJA Coordinator Samson Mokoena and other Comrades
It's been been almost 4 months now after the Climate Change Conference that was held on the 28 November - 9 December 2011 in Durban. The Conference of Parties was held under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. The President of COP 17/CMP 7 was Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane our South African Minister of Foreign Affairs.The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty that was produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (informally known as the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, June, 1992.
Climate change is considered to be one of the most serious threats to sustainable development, with the adverse impact expected on the environment, human health, food security, economical activities, natural resources and physical infrastructures. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the effects of climate change have already been observed, and scientific indicate that precautionary and prompt action is necessary
Many people in the communities still don’t know what climate change is and what are its causes and  impact. Vaal Triangle remains one of the polluted area in the Country. VEJA believes that is important to educate people about climate change since we have the biggest polluting company such as Sasol, Arcelormittal and Eskom that are putting more  greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Adding to this company we have problem of coal burning. Many people who can't afford to buy electrivity use coal for cooking and space heating. Coal is the world’s most carbon intensive fossil fuel, is anything but clean and doesn’t promote sustainable development. Just ask communities living within the vicinity of coal mines or power plants about the health problems they face due to the pollution. . People are made to believe polluting indistries brings jobs and grow because they lack knowledge. Most people are not happy with COP17 outcomes. COP17 was a waste of time and resources. It was seen  and called conference of polluters by many.  Sasol and Eskom were part of the negotiations, deciding on our future with out us. It has shown that government is only interested in protecting the interest of those who are putting profit first and greedy. 

Greenhouse gas Emission(Sasol Plant in Sasolburg)
What have done
1. Organised Community meeting
2. Youth session
3. Walk from Vaal Mall to Sasolburg
4. Participated in dirty energy week
5. Participated in people's space

Monday 26 March 2012

Corporate Trade Show

A Corporate Trade Show
Pictures by SAVE
The 6th World Water Forum converges at the city of Marseille France from the 12-17 March 2012 under World Water Council, this conference was nothing but a corporate trade show. The World Water Forum has no legitimacy on policy development as it does not represent citizens but it is used by corporations to push their agenda of commodification and privatisation of water and sanitation throughout the world.

The South Africa government especially the Department of Water Affairs allowed to be captured by corporations and to be pushed to privatized water services and infrastructure in the country, through Public-Private Partnership. The minister of water affairs Edna Molewa announced in World Water Forum that South Africa will be looking for Private Investments of 25 billion for the upgrading of 43 Waste Water Treatment Plants who are no functioning around South Africa.

In February at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town the Minister of Water Affairs announced that the department will be signing the agreement with Water Resources Group, to advice the department of Water Affairs, these WRG is lead by Nestle and other corporations that are heavily involved in water privatization of water services and infrastructure around the world and uses more water,

The government claims that these investments will assist to upgrade 43 Waste Water Treatments Plants, but the minister forgot that is the same government  that has allow these Waste Water Treatment Plant to collapse by not appoint people with skills at local government. Department of Water Affairs has failed on its obligations to monitor local government on upgrading and maintenance of the infrastructure especially in rural municipalities and the failer of the Minister to implement the National Water Act,

As citizens of this country we must remind the South African government that section 27 of Constitution guarantees the citizens right to water as the fundamental human  , and the United Nations General Assembly in June 2010 passed a resolution A/Res/64/292 and UN Human Rights Council Passed a resolution CA/HRC/18/L.1 on the human right to safe dinking water and sanitation, we call on the South African Government to distance itself from the declaration  issued on the 13 March 2012 at World Water Forum that failed to recognized water and sanitation as human rights. Water movements in South Africa we need to reject this announcement by the Minister of Water Affairs as it will lead to tariff increases; already government has failed to roll out sanitation and access to clean drinking water. Poor people and those who are living in the rural areas will suffer more.   
Picture by SAVE
The South African government must be held accountable on the health hazard that is being caused by municipalities and industries that are continue polluting water resources. Currently Vaal River is wasted, there are continues pollution incidents that are caused by the very same government.  .

\The South African government has legal binding obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights to water and sanitation to its citizens, and its must immediately implement the National Water Act, and provide clean drinking water and sanitation to poor communities and rural communities, the comodification of water and sanitation must be rejected, and the government must and provide poor municipalities with financial and technical skill to be able to  run and maintain their water treatment plants.