BULAWAYO, Friday, November 17, 1966 — A Lowveld river became a watercourse of death for thousand of fish which suffocated and died in molasses-polluted pools, a magistrate’s court heard today. Government fish biologist, Mr Frank JR Junor, said that along the 15-mile stretch of the Mamande and Lundi Rivers, dead fish lined the banks.
Thousands of others rose to the surface to try to get oxygen, but one by one they died. “It was a terrible sight and nothing could be done to save them”, he said.
Mr Junor was giving evidence in a case in which Hippo Valley Estates (Pvt) Ltd, was convicted of depositing 757 tonnes of molasses into the Mamande and Lundi rivers.
Mr Barrie Day, representing the company, in his capacity as general manager, was told by magistrate, Mr LC Mino, that the discharge of such large quantities of molasses was an “act of negligence”.
Mr Mino adjourned the case to Fort Victoria for sentence on December 1. Mr Junor told the court that in July he went to various points along the Lundi River. He found fish dying by their thousands.
Samples taken from the water showed it contained little or no oxygen. The water was yellow and emitted a lethal gas. “All the symptoms were consistent with the chemical reaction from large quantities of molasses being dumped there”.
Mr Adrian DP Bellamy, a secretary with Hippo Valley Estates, said his company had been posed with “a molasses problem” since UDI.
The loss of regular export markets had meant that they were now having to store molasses in large quantities until alternative markets could be found. Between June 20and July 1, 757 tonnes of molasses produced at the Hippo Valley mills had been put in a specially constructed storage dam.
And it was from there, the court was told, that the molasses had overflowed into a drain which led to a water course feeding the Mamande River. The molasses then flowed into the Mamande River. Mr Day pleaded not guilty on his company’s behalf.