A CONSULTING Engineer for Nkana Water and Sewerage says the utility has been forced to shut down its pumps at Mwambashi stream because of heavy pollution arising from KCM operations.
Senior engineer, Ngobola Muyembe from Gulf Engineering, an engineering firm contracted by Nkana Water to work on water reticulation systems said the pollution had also affected the Kafue River.
Muyembe said KCM had continued to discharge its mining effluents in a stream called Muntipa which is connected to Mwambashi, a stream that in turn carries water into the Kafue River.
He said the sulphate levels found in the water were very high and alarming, a situation that had forced Nkana water to shut down its pumps, plunging areas like Kalulushi into water shortages.
"The water in Kalulushi is coming from Kitwe because the pumps at Mwambashi have been shut. I personally worked on this project which is close to my heart and people are asking where are we going to get the water because the water in Kafue River is just as bad. If KCM does not stop discharging that effluent, we will all suffer," Muyembe said.
"KCM has leach pads, where they crush the rocks that have copper content. They put these rocks in a reservoir which is mixed with sulfuric acid. This sulfuric acid is the one that they use to extract the copper and then the effluent of that is the one they discharge in Muntipa stream which in turn goes into the Mwambashi stream that eventually, takes water into the Kafue River."
Muyembe said the underground water was seriously being affected by the mining activities.
He said the laws were clear and stated that no one, including the water utility itself, had rights to discharge effluents in any of the streams or rivers.
"Some character at KCM told me that they are a huge mining operation with a big appetite and when they consume, they must excrete and they have to excrete in the stream. My question is if KCM has a big appetite, why is it excreting in someone's backyard? KCM needs to treat that effluent and discharge it into the stream when it's treated," Muyembe said.
He said water supply in Kalulushi increased tremendously when the pumps were switched on but Nkana water was forced to switch the pumps off because the quality of water was terrible and pressure had gone down.
Two weeks ago, Minister of Local Government and Housing Emerine Kabanshi warned KCM over its alleged pollution of the Kafue River saying it had resulted into the closure of two water treatment plants for Nkana Water and Sewerage Company.
And Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) Northern region manager, Patson Zulu, indicated that the matter was being seriously investigated and KCM had already been written to.
Zulu said ZEMA was seriously investigating KCM and other mining houses on latest reports of pollution of the Kafue River,Mwambashi stream and other sources of water supply on the Copperbelt.
KCM management could not be reached for comment by press time as mobile phones went unanswered.