Govt aware of dangers of fracking

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cape Town - The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs is aware of US studies suggesting that fracking - a method of gas extraction - could contaminate drinking water sources with radioactive material.

This comes as the minister responsible for the department, Edna Molewa, indicated that she was aware of proposals to explore for gas - involving fracking of deep shales - in the Northern Cape's Karoo Basin.

Molewa was responding to a question posed by the Congress of the People in the National Assembly.

"The department is furthermore aware of the potential impact that fracking poses to the shallow aquifer systems, which are the sole source of water for the local users," she said.

She said they were going to evaluate "all the relevant information and compare with their own unique geological formations and information, which varies from area to area."

On a separate matter, Molewa was asked whether she was aware that the Vaal River's upper catchment had underlying coal reserves, which were being mined - causing contamination of the water source.

The minister said they were aware of the mining, and "all applications for water use authorisations by mining companies are carefully considered."

She said the Department of Mineral Resources was currently developing a strategy, to which they would add their input to "rehabilitate abandoned mines in order to prevent acid mine drainage."

The Democratic Alliance wanted to know what actions had been taken against Tswane Metropolitan Municipality for any violations of the National Water Act at the Roowal sewage treatment works.

It also wanted to know whether the minister was aware that the river below the treatment plant had been foaming this year.

Molewa said action had been taken and the municipality had come up with an action plan to correct the situation.