Toxic sludge chokes Duzi

Six in­jured af­ter oil stor­age tank col­lapses

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - NOKUTHULA KHANY­ILE •­ nokuthula.khany­[email protected]­dia24.com

A SUS­PECTED burst valve which led to the col­lapse of a crude oil stor­age tank at Wil­low­ton Oil Mills in Ohrt­mann Road left six work­ers in­jured and sent about 240 tons of ef­flu­ent flood­ing the Bayne­spruit trib­u­tary of the Duzi River.

Environmen­tal ex­perts de­scribed this as one of the worst in­ci­dents of pol­lu­tion the city had ever seen.

David Swei­dan, Wil­low­ton Group mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive, said yesterday that the in­ci­dent was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. “Our cur­rent main fo­cus is to as­cer­tain any environmen­tal im­pact po­ten­tially caused and en­sur­ing the con­tain­ment and nec­es­sary re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion re­quired,” Swei­dan said.

He said the im­me­di­ate on-site re­sponse from their teams en­sured min­i­mal in­juries.

“Those in­jured were treated on site be­fore be­ing trans­ported to nearby med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties for fur­ther treat­ment.”

Swei­dan said a full re­port and as­sess­ment will be made to all rel­e­vant de­part­ments once the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been com­pleted.

A lo­cal pri­vate hos­pi­tal con­firmed the six work­ers who were in­jured were in a sta­ble con­di­tion yesterday. “The ... men were all treated for smoke in­hala­tion, abra­sions, cuts and phys­i­cal in­juries. Three were taken into the gen­eral ward, while the other three were [ini­tially] taken into ICU be­cause of the sever­ity of their in­juries,” said a spokesper­son.

Msun­duzi Mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesper­son Thobeka Ma­fum­batha said sub­se­quent to the first in­ci­dent two ad­di­tional tanks con­tain­ing fatty acids and caus­tic acid were dis­lodged, re­sult­ing in a cock­tail of the three sub­stances flood­ing the premises and spilling out into the Bayne­spruit.

Yesterday, Drizit and Spill­tech staffers worked to con­tain the spillage, which had al­ready flowed about 15 km down­stream.

“The sub­stances have caused sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts on the pH, sus­pended solids, oils and greases, chem­i­cals and bi­o­log­i­cal oxy­gen de­mand of the wa­ter qual­ity re­sult­ing in fish kills and dam­age to all aquatic flora and fauna,” said Ma­fum­batha.

She said clean-up com­pa­nies were us­ing float­ing booms and an ab­sorbent agents to re­move the con­tam­i­nants.

Um­geni Wa­ter will be re­leas­ing wa­ter from Henley Dam to di­lute the pol­lu­tants, she said.

“To­gether with the clean-up pro­cesses, it could take up to 48 hours. Wil­low­ton

Oil Mills have ceased all pro­duc­tion un­til Sun­day,” she added.

Ma­fum­batha said the dis­charge of chem­i­cals into any wa­ter body was strictly pro­hib­ited. “The Duzi river and

all its trib­u­taries within Msun­duzi are sam­pled and an­a­lysed weekly for mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal com­pli­ance by Um­geni Wa­ter and the Environmen­tal Health unit.

“We will be en­forc­ing our by-laws be­cause in­ci­dents of such a na­ture are gov­erned by Sec­tion 28 and 30 of the Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Act.”

“The sub­stances have caused sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts on the pH, sus­pended solids, oils and greases, chem­i­cals and bi­o­log­i­cal oxy­gen de­mand of the wa­ter qual­ity re­sult­ing in fish kills and dam­age to all aquatic flora and fauna.

PHO­TOS: MOEKETSI MAMANE

ABOVE:­ Scum­ cov­er­ing­ the­ river­ be­low­ the­ Grimthorpe­ low-level­ bridge.LEFT:­ Lincoln­ Meade­ res­i­dent­ Brian­ God­dard­ stands­ on­ the­ Grimthorpe­ Av­enuelow-level­ bridge­ ob­serv­ing­ the­ pol­lu­tion.

Fish­ found­ dead­ be­low­ theGrimtho­rpe­ low­ level­ bridge.

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