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Kruger Park toxic spill under control and investigation

Kevin Crowley

A week-long spill is now under control, says SANParks, but the long-term effect on the environment is yet to be seen.

The spill was uncovered by staff at Kruger National Park after they were tipped off by a local fisherman. Fish were killed as far as 12 kilometres away. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

A toxic mine spillage flowed into a river in the Kruger National Park for a week, according to SANParks, which runs South Africa's biggest game reserve.

The polluting discharge began on December 30 and wasn't fully stopped until a week later, Stefanie Freitag-Ronaldson, general manager for SANParks' Savanna Research Unit, said on Tuesday.

The spill came from a mine operation called Bosveld Phosphate, state-run SANParks said in a statement on Monday. "This major spillage is now under control and we are investigating the environmental impact, which will become clearer over time," she said.

The incident was uncovered by staff at Kruger National Park, in the eastern provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, after they were tipped off on December 30 by a local fisherman. Highly acidic water with a pH of 1.5 was detected at the discharge site, Freitag-Ronaldson said. Fish were killed as far as 12km away, she said. Pure water measures a neutral seven on the pH scale, which ranges from zero to 14.

Bosveld Phosphate didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The department of water affairs met with the company on Tuesday and is working with it to deal with the pollution, Nigel Adams, a department compliance director, said. The department has opened the Blyde River Dam to increase waterflow and dilute the spillage, he said. "The damage has now been done," said Adams. "We are making sure that it does not happen again."

Visitor camps inside Kruger Park that use water from the Olifants River switched supplies to back-up borehole water, SANParks said on Tuesday. – Bloomberg

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