Rain Blamed for Toxic Spill in South Africa’s Biggest Game Park

A toxic spillage that flowed into South Africa’s Kruger National Park was caused by “exceptional rainfall” last month, said Bosveld Phosphates (Pty) Ltd., the company responsible.

An impoundment dam at the company’s fertilizer manufacturing plant at Phalaborwa in the eastern Limpopo province overflowed on Dec. 31 after heavy rains, the company said today in a statement. The Kruger park, the country’s largest game reserve and about the size of Wales, is home to 147 mammal species including lions, leopards and rhinos.

The spill killed a “massive” number of fish as far as 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away from the discharge site, according to SANParks, which runs the Kruger. Bosveld Phosphates said it has been dealing with water problems at the plant since acquiring it from Sasol Ltd. in October 2011. A spokesman for Johannesburg-based Sasol couldn’t immediately comment when contacted outside of normal office hours.

“Bosveld is confident that, due to the very high dilution factor caused by strong flows in the Selati River and the Olifants River downstream, there will be no lasting harm to the environment,” the company said.

SANParks disputes this. There is no way of assessing the incident’s long-term impact until it is known what metals and chemicals were in the polluting water, said Stefanie Freitag-Ronaldson, general manager for SANParks’ Savanna Research Unit.

Bosveld Phosphates used lime to neutralize the spilled process water that flowed into the Selati River for about two hours, it said. The company notified “relevant stakeholders” immediately after the incident on Dec. 31, it said in a separate statement.

Freitag-Ronaldson said SANParks detected highly acidic water with a pH of 1.5 at the discharge site on Dec. 30 after being tipped off by a local fisherman. SANParks wasn’t informed of the incident by the fertilizer company, she said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE