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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

Cornubia chemical spill: Don’t eat the fish, residents warned

An investigation shows the warehouse allegedly had no environmental permits.

A chemical spill at a warehouse in Cornubia during the recent incidents of unrest has affected beaches in the north of Durban to such an extent that residents are becoming ill from eating seafood.

In addition, eThekwini Municipality said the beaches north of uMngeni River would remain closed to the public as a precautionary measure.

The spill originated when the UPL plant was looted and set alight on 12 July, following the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.

Cornubia chemical spill

An investigation carried out by amaBhungane confirmed the warehouse held millions of litres of chemicals, including 26,000 kilograms of Masta 900 insecticide which contains a potent neurotoxin.

The warehouse also contained 1,800 litres of methamidophos, 40,000 litres of products containing the paraquat herbicide, 19,000 kilograms of Terbufos and many other chemicals classified as harmful or toxic.

amaBhungane said the toxic smoke from the fire and the mass chemical spill flowed down the hill, into a wetland and into the Ohlanga River, which empties into the Indian Ocean just north of uMhlanga.

The investigation also shows that the warehouse allegedly had no environmental permits, and “had not been through a formal risk assessment, nor had relevant authorities been warned about its contents”.

Durban marine activities halted

This prompted the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to once again urge the public not to fish along the north coast.

The department warned residents near the uMhlanga Estuary that the spill is affecting seafood and marine life. As such any activities in the area – including surfing, fishing and harvesting of marine species and oyster picking – should be halted.

“Particularly, oyster pickers and other harvesters of fish and invertebrates are continuing to collect both live and dead animals.

“You are further advised not to collect any dead fish and consume fish or related products that have been harvested or collected between the uMgeni River Estuary in the south and Salt Rock in the north until the necessary tests are done.”

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