Underground Acid Water Could Take Over Johannesburg

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Johannesburg Skyline at Dusk --- Image by © Jon Hicks/Corbis

Rising levels of acidic water in the abandoned mine shafts located beneath South Africa’s largest city, could overflow onto the streets in as little as a year and a half.  (via the Daily Telegraph)

The acid water is caused by ground water seeping into the shafts that zigzag below Johannesburg. The water then reacts with metals and minerals, oxidizing and creating fluid with the acidity levels of vinegar. That acidic water is rapidly rising at a rate of about three feet per day and–if left unchecked–could lead to severe structural damage of the city, blackouts and ground tremors, as well as harming the health of the city’s residents.

Though the problem has been recognized and environmental ministers are working on a solution, the issue of money could prevent the government from solving the problem. The proposed pump, which would work to drain the mineshafts of the offensive fluid, is estimated to take 13 months to build and would cost R218 million (approximately $30 million USD). Unfortunately, South Africa only has the budget of R14 million.

The Telegraph reports that the state is currently communicating with the mining companies that have profited from the mines in the past, negotiating who should help fund the solution.