THE eThekwini Municipality have provided an update on the fire that gutted the UPL Warehouse plant in Cornubia, where a chemical spill was reported.
The warehouse, which stored a number of chemicals used in the production of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, was destroyed by fire after a suspected arson attack related to the unrest experienced in the province last week.
“The large volumes of water used to extinguish the fire had led to the plant’s containment system being overwhelmed. This led to the contaminated water spilling into the Umhlangana stream below. The contaminated water also made its way into the Umhlanga River and to the estuary severely affecting marine life,” said City spokesperson, Lindiwe Khuzwayo.
“The Umhlangana stream was highly polluted. Whilst mitigation measures have been put in place, we note that it will take a considerable amount of time to fully rehabilitate the stream. An investigation will be undertaken to determine whether groundwater has been contaminated. The marine conditions have improved considerably as the water colour is returning to normal and the number of dead fish has decreased. Further water and sediment sampling from both the estuary and the beaches will be undertaken. For now, the beaches will remain closed,” she said.
A team of specialists from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, the Department of Water and Sanitation, the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as well as eThekwini Municipality have visited the site and are looking at various issues including air quality, environmental health, estuarine management and marine pollution.
“An Air Quality Impact Assessment to be done during the duration of the incident and a community exposure assessment will be required to determine the impact on human health. The above specialist reports are in process and will take some time to be completed as models will require a number of inputs and certain of the samples will need to be analysed overseas.
“Numerous complaints were received mainly via Emergency Services and these were responded to by the Health Unit. (A number of cane fires were also noted during the investigation of the incident contributing to poor air quality). Residents have been advised to seek medical attention at their local clinic and private facilities as deemed necessary,” Khuzwayo said.
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