Carolina’s polluted water may cause livestock abortions

Pollution from the Boesmanspruit Dam near Carolina, Mpumalanga is affecting farm livestock in the area.

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About 2 000 sheep and 2 000 cattle rely on water from surrounding rivers and dams. Farmers say contaminated water may lead to abortions in cattle which impacts negatively on productivity. Koos Smith, a farmer in the area, said that drinking water for cattle comes from the polluted Boesmanspruit and Nooitgedacht dams.

“It is difficult to say with certainty whether the cattle abort due to the polluted water or other causes. Currently I can’t say how many of my cattle have aborted, even though I am trying to keep a close watch on them,” said Smith. Farmer Helen McGinn said that another problem for the farming community was the fact that the local Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality allowed the town’s sewage to run through the dam. “I rely on Koos Smith for borehole water so that I can have clean water,” she said.

According to local public health officer and town businessman, Leon Dormehl, water quality has improved in comparison to earlier this year. “I cannot say it meets the water regulations standard because it doesn’t. The manganese and iron problems have been sorted out but there is still a problem with pH and sulphate levels in the water,” he said. Dr Koos Pretorius, a veterinarian studying the area’s water and its possible impact on animals, said this polluted water would lead to chronic disease conditions.

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“Even though this might not be clinical, it will lead to low fertility and poor grazing ability.”Although efforts were being made to purify the water, Pretorius felt that the only solution was for the municipality to go back to the source of the problem. Dormehl said that new pumps and green sand filters were being installed which would improve the situation. He said there had been no major improvement of infrastructure but that the water plant had been modified.

According to news agency Sapa, the North Gauteng High Court found recently that water supplied to residents in Carolina presented health risks. Judge Moses Mavundla earlier ruled that the Gert Sibande District Municipality and the Chief Albert Luthuli Local Municipalty should supply potable water to residents within 72 hours and return to the court with proof that the water was clean.

He granted the municipalities leave to appeal, but did not suspend his order pending the appeal. Sapa reported that Judge Mavundla said he inclined towards the protection of the rights of the community in terms of access to clean drinking water.