Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Karoo residents concerned about gas mining

Karoo residents concerned about gas mining

Feb 28, 2011 10:59 PM | By Guy Rogers 

Karoo residents are calling on the authorities to take note of the latest findings in the US that fracking, a gas-mining technique, could be contaminating drinking water supplies with radioactivity.

Photograph by: MICK TSIKAS


The findings, reported in The New York Times last week, include that waste water produced by fracking wells often absorbs radioactivity from naturally occurring minerals underground like uranium.
This radioactive waste water is discharged to sewage plants that do not have the capacity to remove this contamination. It is then pumped out into waterways from which drinking water is harvested.
Fracking is hydraulic fracturing, a technique in which water mixed with corrosive chemicals is pumped to great depths to fracture shale and release gas bound in fissures in the rock.
Treasure the Karoo Action Group chairman Jonathan Deal said yesterday this had a particular relevance in the Karoo.
"When our government was touting its pebble bed modular reactor two years ago, the stated strategy was that the uranium feedstock necessary would come from the Karoo," he said. "So we know uranium is down there, and this makes the findings in the US very important."
Coupled with the known presence of uranium, the dearth of capacity in South Africa to manage waste and to enforce action against polluters meant the issue was of high concern, he said.
The news from the US follows controversial statements last week by Energy Minister Dipuo Peter at a parliamentary press briefing.
"If we don't use that gas . it will be released into the atmosphere, and it will also create another particular challenge," he said.
But Richard Worthington, the climate change programme manager for the local office of the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the minister's argument was flawed.
"It is completely incorrect. [Methane, in the form of Shale Gas] is safeguarded in deep geological formations thousands of metres underground below impermeable layers of rock. There is no way it can escape without human intervention," he said.

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