Project Blaauwpan Dam

In 2006, aviation fuel leaked from the airport fuel system into the storm-water system, which flows into the Blaauwpan Dam.

A team of experts immediately contained the spill and commenced the emergency clean-up procedures.

A task team comprising representatives of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Department of Water Affairs, Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Airports Company South Africa, was immediately formed to provide support and advice on the rehabilitation process.

Fact sheet

  • About 1.2 million litres of Jet A1 fuel was spilled on 06 November 2006;

  • As a result of our containment and recovery plan, approximately 632,259 litres were recovered along the storm water system to Blaauwpan Dam;

  • An additional ±50,000 litres were recovered near the valve chamber where the spill occurred;

  • ±200,000 litres were absorbed into ±4,000 tons of contaminated soil;


  • 800 x 20kg bags of absorbent material were used during decontamination;

  • Each bag of absorbent material recovered accounted for about 10 litres, and the overall product recovered was almost 80,000 litres;

  • In addition, 180,000 litres were estimated to have evaporated into the atmosphere during the spill incident and as a result of the recovery process;

  • Approximately ±1,142,259 litres of product were therefore  recovered and disposed of safely;

  • Because the total volume of fuel lost was ±1.2 million litres, the remaining ±56,000 litres could have been trapped in the geological formation and ground water around Valve Chamber 4. Some could also have been trapped in the pan sediment;


  • The Blaauwpan Dam was contaminated when fuel was drained into the storm water system leading into it;

  • A mechanical failure on one of the refuelling valves caused the spillage at O.R. Tambo International Airport;

  • The spillage was contained within 12 hours to minimise the spread of fuel further than Blaauwpan Dam;


  • Temporary weirs and dykes were immediately established at the boundary of the airport on the morning of 07 November 2006;

  • An earth wall was installed at the inlet to the Blaauwpan Dam to minimise the impact of fuel entering into the dam;

  • The Ekurhuleni Local Authority constructed a temporary earth wall at the Blaauwpan Dam outflow to prevent any further contamination into the downstream system;

  • Absorbent material was placed on the water to suck up free product and suppress the fumes;

  • Barriers were installed at the outlet of the dam to prevent fuel flowing out;


  • A temporary fence was erected by Airports Company South Africa around the affected areas of the Blaauwpan Dam. Warning signs were placed on the fence, informing the public not to swim or fish;

  • The contaminant was removed from the surface water and trucked from the site in fuel tankers to be recycled;

  • Cable sleeve penetration was minimised by placing expansion foam around it as a temporary sealing method;

  • Polyurethane injection was used to contain Jet A1 fuel within the valve chamber;

  • Physical inspections were conducted on the valve chambers every hour and recorded to establish the presence of any free product in the valve chambers;

  • Consultants were appointed to do geohydrological and soil assessments, as well as monitor the removal process, water and air quality.