United Phosphorous Limited (UPL) has reiterated that the beaches in the north of Durban are safe to open following a devastating chemical spill in July.
In a statement released on Thursday, UPL said it had written to the KwaZulu-Natal department of economic development, tourism and the environment regarding its concerns about the eThekwini municipality’s delays in reopening the beaches.
The company said it was of the view that “all necessary information has been supplied in order for authorities to determine that the beaches are safe to be reopened”.
“UPL recognises the negative impact of the prolonged closure of the beaches on tourism establishments in the area as well as other economic sectors such as the local fishing industry.
“It is therefore concerned that the decision to reopen the beaches is being unnecessarily delayed and has urged [the department] to urgently expedite this process so that these beaches can once again be enjoyed by the public,” Japhet Ncube, spokesperson for UPL South Africa, said in a statement.
This follows a meeting held by UPL’s independent specialists and the department’s external reviewer last week.
The independent reviewer was appointed by the department to look into UPL’s report.
The report, which was submitted to the department and the eThekwini municipality, contains chemical analyses of beaches and sea water conducted last month.
The last samples were said to have been taken on 8 September.
It further states that beaches and the ocean “outside a 1km exclusion zone, north, south and east of the mouth pose an extremely low chemical risk to the public regardless of whether the estuary mouth is open or closed”.
Meanwhile, Ncube said the specialists during last Monday’s meeting provided the independent reviewer with more detail on the chemical analysis and results.
“The team also provided information on the extensive clean-up operations that have been funded by UPL since the attack and which have cost over R250 million to date,” he said
UPL had previously indicated that beaches have been given the all-clear despite the eThekwini municipality saying otherwise.
The eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality says the beaches, which are north of the Umgeni River, will remain shut and will only open after environmental authorities have reviewed UPL’s report.
“The city would like to reiterate that the beaches remain closed until the national department of forestry, fisheries and the environment and the KZN department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs have considered the peer review findings that will make a determination on the environmental and toxicological risks, and related quality of the seawater for human safety,” the municipality told TimesLive on Thursday.
The beaches were affected by a toxic spill when UPL’s Cornubia warehouse was set alight during the looting, riots and unrest that occurred in Gauteng and KZN in July.
Additional reporting by Nica Richards