The Fleurhof Dam in Johannesburg bears witness to several intersections of faith, public health, and water pollution. The pollution by mining waste of bodies of water used during the ritual of baptism have led to increased health consequences for South African worshippers.
The waters contained by the Fleurhof Dam in Soweto contain heavy metals. The water spilled from the tailing dams enters river streams and eventually pollutes a nearby lake.1 The negative effects on the worshippers' health are potentially significant, since the water is acidic and contains uranium: the likelihood of skin problems such as eczema, and other diseases like cancer, are increased. In addition, the polluted streams flow into the Vaal River, which is one of the most important industrial and agricultural rivers in South Africa. For this reason, the level of toxicity of water represents a threat to food and water security.
Furthermore, communities in South Africa practice their religious rituals for hundreds of years, and polluted water puts their lives at risk since they are adamant that they maintain their traditions and cultural lifestyle.2 There was a collaboration in South Africa between governmental water authorities and mining companies, which tried to mitigate this negative impact on the landscape, but there was a minimal effect.
Ben De Klerk, “Baptism and the pollution of Africa's water”. Research Gate, Theological Studies, 2014.
Kim Harrisberg, “Baptism by toxic water: Mine waste, sewage threaten South Africa's worshippers”. Reuters, 2019.