Duzi toxic spill: clean up almost complete

11 September 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201916193

Disaster Management
Food & Beverage
Water & Effluent Management

CLEAN up work at the site of the release last month of approximately 240 tons of toxic effluent into the Msunduzi River in Pietermaritzburg is proceeding well with only a skeleton team now on the job.

That’s according to the Willowton Group, owners of the edible oil manufacturing facility responsible for the accidental spill at into the Baynespruit tributary of the Msunduzi, site of the famous Duzi canoe race and part of the uMngeni river system.

The contamination reportedly caused the death of thousands of fish as well as livestock, and communities downstream were advised not to use water from the river for any purpose until it was declared safe.

According to the company, appointed specialists have been on site completing impact assessments, clean-up operations, as well as conducting the detailed, independent investigation.

“We are pleased to confirm that the river and banks have been cleared of visible product, and that there is only a skeleton clean-up team on the river doing routine maintenance of the booms,” the company said in a statement issued on Monday, 9 September 2019.

It added that Dr Mark Graham of Hilton-based environmental consulting firm Groundtruth had deployed a drone along the river, specifically targeting areas of the river which clean-up teams could not access.

“Initial feedback from the drone footage a well as ongoing specialist work in the field, confirms that there is little or no product in the river. In the coming days, the specialists expect to provide confirmation that demobilisation of the spill clean-up crews and booms can take place.”

Additionally, said the company, water quality results from the SANAS accredited Talbot laboratories was in the process of being received and interpreted by the specialists. “These will be communicated to the competent authorities in due course.

It confirmed that at the weekend, representatives from the communities of Eastwood, Cinderella, Malvan (Merrivale), Sobantu, Panorama and Pavilion staged a demonstration outside the offices of Willowton Group.

“A meeting was then held between the company and the affected communities in order to hear their grievances, which include drinking and fishing water contamination and the killing of crops. The company acknowledges that the recent industrial spillage has affected the lives of the many community members living along the banks of the Baynespruit River and has resolved to assist in both the short and long-term rehabilitation of said communities.”

Proposed solutions included the provisions of JoJo tanks and boreholes. The company also promised to engage with the Department of Water and Sanitation on the issue of water quality, and as part of the company commitment to the Baynespruit the company will adopt the river in partnership with DUCT and the Imbalenhle Project.

“The company undertakes that any monitoring of the river from the company’s partners will involve the local community, as well as the employment of qualified community members to assist in the monitoring of the river. The Willowton Group will also undertake to ensure that a greater number of skilled and unskilled locals are employed by the company.”

The company committed to the training of 25 unemployed persons every six months as part of its training program. It also promised to train 10 suitably qualified women as code 14 drivers.

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