New poo hits fan as poison company presses …
Just as the Municipality of eThekwini was under corporate pressure to reopen chemically contaminated beaches north of Durban, a major sewage leak along the Golden Mile resulted in the closure of nearly all of the city’s beaches before along. weekend.
Indian agrochemical group UPL has stepped up pressure on eThekwini Municipality to reopen beaches north of Durban following the massive dumping of toxic chemicals into the sea 11 weeks ago, saying in a statement yesterday. release that “the experts have given the green light” for beaches to reopen.
But just four hours later, the city refused to lift the ban at the request of the UPL – and instead extended the ban to cover central beaches as well due to high levels of water contamination. human waste found in the sea off Durban’s Golden Mile ahead of Heritage Day. weekend.
This means that all tourist beaches in central and northern Durban are closed to swimming until further notice due to the combined effects of chemical pollution and sewage. The only beaches still open are those south of the port of Durban.
Laboratory test results observed by Our Burning Planet reveal the highest levels of E. coli (sewage pollution) of nearly 8,000 cfu / 100 ml of seawater near Battery Beach.
The latest sewage leak, blamed by the city on a faulty sewage pumping station that is “constantly vandalized for scrap,” has thrown another wrench into the work for Durban’s besieged seaside tourism industry and also provided an opening for the agrochemical group UPL. divert attention from his guilt in the toxic chemical pollution of the sea and pose as a victim.
The company’s South African subsidiary is already facing criminal charges by the government and a cleanup bill of Rand 177 million (and more) for private contractors to decontaminate the land and rivers near its chemical warehouse in Cornubia, which burned to the ground after an arson attack on July 12.
In light of complaints from members of the hospitality industry that beach closures are leading to lower bookings or cancellations at popular tourist resorts around Umhlanga and Umdloti, it remains unclear whether UPL will face the challenge. other claims for damages for lost hotel industry revenue. UPL states that it has not received any formal claims for damages from the industry.
On September 23, the UPL issued a press release stating that it had provided the city with a report “written by independent specialists”, recommending that all beaches can be safely reopened (with the exception of an exclusion zone 1 km wide around the mouth of the Umhlanga lagoon).
The city, however, has refused to budge on the reopening of the northern beaches for now, citing “inadequate submissions” from the UPL and the need for independent scientific peer review of the reports provided by the consultants. the UPL.
“The city realizes the importance of this long weekend, but it has a responsibility to guard against anything that poses a threat to the public and tourists,” the city said.
“At this point, eThekwini is awaiting the final and signed report from UPL specialists. This requirement arose out of a workshop with UPL and its specialists on September 8, 2021. The submissions received before this workshop were insufficient. They made no reference to the spill or site in question and were riddled with errors about toxin concentrations. In some cases, the bids were not signed and therefore were unacceptable and rejected on that basis. A consolidated report is expected early next week, after which an independent peer review process will take place.
“The final report on the beach opening will be made available to the public at the same time as it is sent for peer review. The public is urged to be patient and to comply with the requests of the authorities. Any inconvenience is regretted; However, the safety of the public is of the utmost importance.
Our Burning Planet also asked UPL for a copy of its consultant’s report prepared for the city, as well as a full list of chemicals tested in beach sand and the ocean.
Commercial Director UPL South Africa Jan Botha said that several samples had been collected from various sites between Salt Rock in the north and the Umgeni estuary in the south, “the results being subject to careful examination and interpretation by a range of independent specialists”.
“They concluded that beaches and ocean outside a 1 km exclusion zone, north, south and east of the mouth pose an extremely low chemical risk to the public, as the mouth of the estuary (Umhlanga) either open or closed. “
Nevertheless, the mouth of the river is currently open to the sea following recent heavy rains, increasing the risk of new chemical poisons being released into the sea from heavily contaminated river sediments.
Several community representatives expressed concern about the independence of the pollution investigation process, as the overwhelming majority of expert consultants are contracted and paid directly by UPL – rather than being independently appointed by the government and paid remotely by the polluting company.
Botha said, however: “What has been lost in much of the discussion about this incident is that UPL has been victimized as much as any other company that has been the target of violent destruction. [during the July insurrection]. “
But this statement ignores the fact that no environmental impact assessment has been carried out for the UPL’s toxic chemicals warehouse – which also appears to have lacked even the most rudimentary measures to contain a major chemical spill. in adjacent rivers and the ocean in the event of a major disaster. like a fire, flood or sabotage on a facility containing thousands of tons of agricultural chemicals and pesticides.
We asked Botha to provide details on the security measures in place, such as regrouping, to prevent chemicals from entering the environment. (Dikes, similar to empty castle moats, can trap pollution on the site and are a common feature around large fuel refineries).
We have also requested a copy of the full report of the UPL consultants on chemical tests on seawater and sand on beaches north of Durban; the names of the experts consulted and the range of chemicals tested.
In response, UPL said Thursday, September 23: “The report was compiled by Mr Sean Chester of Apex Environmental, based on expert reports from toxicologists Dr Gerhard Verdoorn and Prof Mary Gulumian; and coastal specialist Ms. Nicky Forbes of MER.
He declined to provide a copy of the report, saying: “For clarity, the final report will only be delivered tonight. The draft report has already been submitted and, following comments from the authorities, modifications have been made to the final report. The report cannot be made public at this stage as it is a report prepared for the City and is still under review. However, he recommends that with the exception of the recreation and harvest exclusion zones near the mouth of the estuary, beaches be allowed to return to normal. This is the position of the UPL, as it has been for several weeks, but only the City can make this decision.
On why he considered himself a “victim” and whether he could explain whether the warehouse he rented was equipped with a dike or any other toxic pollution containment measure in the event of an accident. flood, fire, earthquake, act of sabotage, terrorism, etc. the company said:
“This question is unrelated to the report or to the issues with the accessibility of the beaches on the north coast and therefore UPL refuses to answer this question at this point, but will continue to provide updates in the future. ” DM / OBP