Saturday, November 22, 2008

The report CSIR silenced - Here it is !!!

HERE is the Report that CSIR silenced when they prevented Dr Anthony Turton from delivering his keynote address at the CSIR's "Science Real and Relevant" conference in Pretoria this week. He was forbidden from delivering it because CSIR claimed it contained "unsubstantiated" facts, according to the executive, as well as photographs of this year's xenophobic attacks, which, the executive added, "may disturb people".

The report is public domain and here it is for YOU to read.

Water expert suspended (CSIR / Dr Anthony Turton)

By Sheree Béga

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has suspended a leading water researcher over a presentation he was to deliver about South Africa's water crisis this week.

The council executive of the CSIR on Friday suspended Dr Anthony Turton, an acclaimed political scientist, with immediate effect, charging him with insubordination and bringing the CSIR into disrepute. 

His keynote address, A Clean South Africa, was to be presented at the CSIR's "Science Real and Relevant" conference in Pretoria this week, but he was forbidden from delivering it because it contained "unsubstantiated" facts, according to the executive, as well as photographs of this year's xenophobic attacks, which, the executive added, "may disturb people".

In his presentation, Turton was to have said that South Africa had run out of surplus water, with 98 percent of it already allocated. And because most rivers and dams were highly polluted, they had lost the ability to dilute effluents. 

Poor water quality was threatening economic growth, he added. The pollution ranges from acidic mine pollution from coal and gold mining, levels of eutrophication [characterised by an abundant accumulation of nutrients that support a dense growth of algae and other organisms, the decay of which depletes the shallow waters of oxygen in summer] "unprecedented globally" in rivers and dams, and radio-nuclide and heavy-metal contamination from a century of largely unregulated gold mining that had left residents of Soweto, Ekurhuleni and the West Rand living on "contaminated land".

Turton said the government needed to accept that the development targets of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for SA were simply unobtainable, or radically rethink how to mobilise the country's science, engineering and technological capacity.

"If we accept the former option, we can say social instability will grow and SA will slide into anarchy. The xenophobic violence is a taste of things to come if we follow this trajectory… Do we wish to avert the water crisis now before it happens or are we to be content with the status quo, happy to deal with it after it has been thrust upon us like the electricity crisis was?"

CSIR spokesperson Hilda van Rooyen said an internal investigation was under way.


Joburg's acid water timebomb

City could become an urban wasteland
November 08, 2008 Edition 1

Sheree Béga

A top water expert has warned that Joburg could become an urban wasteland if authorities don't start urgently addressing failing infrastructure and poor water quality.

"Ultimately, because we happen to live up on a watershed [in Joburg], we can either continue to maintain that infrastructure or ultimately we're going to have to move away from that watershed," Dr Anthony Turton, a senior water researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said in an interview with the environmental television programme 50/50 this week.

"And when we move away it's going to be a catastrophic thing because businesses are going to fail and houses are going to become uninhabitable. If you travel anywhere in Europe, you find these ancient cities that are destroyed. They're rubble in the ground. That's what Joburg will become."

Massive amounts of money needs to be invested in the "hard stuff" such as pipelines, pump stations and power stations, all of which have limited lifespans, he said.

"We need to understand what's about to break and what we're going to do about fixing it. That's something we really need to get on the agenda."

A quarter of South Africans drink water provided by Rand Water. "More importantly," Turton said, "the area that Rand Water services - Gauteng - generates 10% of the entire economic output of the African continent. Turn off those taps for 48 hours, and the economy is gone. Ten percent of Africa's economy is gone in one snap overnight. This is serious strategic stuff, because we're now going to play catch-up very fast."

But Turton told the Saturday Star that Joburg need not become a wasteland if the resources are managed correctly.

"That means having an accountable government that understands the fundamental water constraints we live under. It will only become a wasteland if we continue our current trajectory of skills loss."

Water experts like Turton are worried about failing municipal infrastructure, which has resulted in the inadequate treatment of domestic and industrial effluent across the country, leading to the spread of toxic cyanobacteria, a blue-green algae found in most of South Africa's river and reservoir systems. The build-up of salts, nutrients, heavy metals, endocrine (hormone) disrupters, carcinogens and radioactivity in rivers from unregulated industrial use is another critical threat.

Several studies, Turton reveals, suggest most areas downstream of gold mining tailings dams are contaminated in "some form or another" with mining waste, including the three major river systems draining Joburg - the Wonderfonteinspruit on the West Rand, the Klip River system in Soweto and the Blesbokspruit flowing through Springs.

But authorities are dealing with the national crisis of acidic mine water pollution, which arises from closed-down gold mines where the water table has returned to pre-mining levels, but polluted water is now flowing out onto the surface in a "piecemeal" fashion, according to Turton.

The mine void under the Witwatersrand is the same volume as eight Kariba dams at full supply level, he pointed out.

"Think about what this means when the void fills completely and starts to decant acidic water. Then think about what we could do with such a volume of water as a city if it was clean and useful."

This acidic water is already decanting at an old mineshaft in Krugersdorp, and Turton warns that the East Rand is next.

"The next decant point will be on the East Rand. The energy crisis is putting mines under financial pressure and they can longer pump water … the decant on the East Rand will likely occur a decade or so earlier than originally anticipated, which means a massive volume of bad quality water will be suddenly flowing into the Vaal system, which is already stressed. That will create a crisis that we already know about and that we can change if we get our ducks in a row."


Tooth fairy project may reveal effect of uranium

March 18, 2008 Edition 4

Shaun Smillie

Fifty tons of uranium seep into the rivers and spruits of the West Rand every year and simply disappear.

Long-term exposure to uranium, just one of a host of heavy metals found in the river systems of the Wonderfontein Spruit, can lead to kidney failure and even cancer.

But for a long time no one has known what the effects of uranium have had on the people living in the area.

Local doctors have spoken of higher-than-usual cancer rates but there has never been any hard scientific proof.

However, this could all soon change with the help of a bunch of tooth fairies.

The tooth fairies will be the thousands of mothers scientists are banking on to hand in their children's milk teeth.

Dr Anthony Turton, a researcher at the CSIR, plans to start a study that will once and for all tell scientists what effect radiation and heavy metals is having on the population in the Wonderfontein Spruit catchment area. The metals are released by mines in the area.

The theory is simple. Mothers will hand in their children's milk teeth, scientists will then analyse each tooth, looking for elevated radiation levels and the presence of several heavy metals.

"Milk teeth represent what has happened in a child's life over a period of seven years," said Turton.

Children, he explained, are more likely to accumulate heavy metal and radiation in their teeth because of the body's drive to acquire calcium for bone growth.

But while in theory the project is simple, putting it into practice is likely to be far harder.

Besides the cost of an estimated R15-million, Turton is expecting cultural issues to come to the fore.

"There are cultural complexities. For example in some cultures a tooth is seen as a body part that can be used against you in muti. That is why anthropologists are going to be part of the study," explained Turton.

NGOs in the areas will help in facilitating the collection.

The study is still in the concept phase, but Turton hopes that they will get a sample of about 2 000 teeth, enough to make it statistically relevant.

It is not the first time that a tooth fairy project has been conducted.

In the 1950s in the US, kids' milk teeth were used in a successful nuclear research project.

The South African tooth fairy project will be tracing the hazardous cocktail of heavy metals that includes arsenic, uranium, copper and nickel which end up in the Wonderfontein Spruit catchment area, from mine drainage.

According to a report, gold mining companies in the West and Far West Rand discharge 50 tons of uranium into the waterways annually.

"You are getting all of this entering the Wonderfontein Spruit and it is not coming out at the other end, it just disappears," said Turton.