EMA uncovers mine pollution

Source: EMA uncovers mine pollution | The Herald September 16, 2016

Herald Correspondent

THE Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company (Zimasco) is at the centre of a pollution scandal after recent Environmental Management Agency (EMA) tests confirmed the existence of toxic effluent in water bodies around its ferrochrome processing plant in Kwekwe. EMA said surrounding communities such as Mbizo could be affected by the pollution after tests revealed that some water bodies were contaminated with chromium VI levels which were way above the World Health Organisation guidelines.

The environmental watchdog’s findings in June validated an earlier independent report on the pollution Zimasco has been causing since the 1990s, prompting the State agency to order the company to take remedial measures.

Water samples taken at the nearby Chiedza Primary School showed that the school’s borehole was contaminated with chromium VI, forcing EMA to intervene by ordering the decommissioning of the water source until further tests revealed that it was safe to consume the water.

The Sinosteel Corporation-owned company hired consultants Stewart Scott in 1999 to fix its environmental issues but the problem remained unsolved after Zimasco apparently ignored recommendations to build a water treatment and pollution control plant.

EMA discovered in May this year that effluent containing hexavalant was being generated during alloy slag-recovery processes and contaminating nearby rivers such as Sebakwe, exposing surrounding communities to health challenges as chromium VI is a poisonous substance which could cause respiratory and skin problems.

“With the realisation of traces of chromium contamination at Chiedza Primary School borehole, there is need to provide an interim alternative water source for the school to guard against chromium poisoning for school children while further investigations of the pollution are ongoing.

“Zimasco should immediately start the decontamination process for highly contaminated areas such as the effluent that is currently contained in the holding ponds as the laboratory analytical results have shown significant levels of chromium hexavalent and install mitigatory measures to avoid further pollution of the environment, soil, ground and surface water in future operations,” reads part of the EMA report.

The communities have since filed a $500 million class lawsuit against Zimasco for polluting the environment and the matter is pending.