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Fish die off in Wilge River at Bronkhorstspruit

Preliminary results showed that the pH level of the water in the Wilge River at the site of the fish kill was 4.0 along with low oxygen levels of 45%.

A fish die-off at a lodge on the Wilge River was reported to Cara Stokes, chairperson of the Bronkhorstspruit Catchment Forum on Wednesday February 16.

The Wilge River catchment begins in the Victor Khanye Local Municipality (Delmas area) and takes its journey down the catchment to the Loskop Dam and beyond.

The river passes through Gauteng and Mpumalanga and through various local authorities.

The river was reportedly different colours at different locations.

At the lodge, the colour was described as yellowish and other residents downstream said it was a blueish colour.

That afternoon some residents used a helicopter to view the various inlets to the Wilge River to determine if the source of the problem could be identified from the air.

“The helicopter flight revealed what could be assumed as a point source of pollution which lay in the Kromdraaispruit that leads into the Saalboomspruit and the Wilge River,” Stokes said.

A resident observes strange coloured water in the Wilge River. (Photo: Supplied)

Apart from reporting the incident to the departments of Minerals, Water and Environmental Affairs (three departments), the catchment forum, under the guidance of Dr Dabrowski, an aquatic scientist, sent fish samples to the pathology laboratory at Onderstepoort, and water samples from several sites to an accredited lab to confirm and characterise the pollution source.

The full set of results was not available at the time of publication.

However, preliminary results showed that the pH level of the water in the Wilge River at the site of the fish kill was 4.0 along with low oxygen levels of 45%.

“This is a strong indicator that a significant volume of acid mine drainage associated with coal mining was the problem,” said Stokes.

Dr Dabrowski from Confluent Environmental has been appointed by a stakeholder to analyse the various results and to provide an independent investigation on the matter.

Some community members have been contacted by the mine to begin the public participation process for affected stakeholders.

“The authorities are on the case, however, formal feedback is awaited regarding the nature of the incident, the rehabilitation measure as well as what can be done to prevent it from happening again,” stated Stokes.

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