The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Ravi Pillay, has expressed satisfaction with the mop-up operation at the UPL agro-chemicals warehouse plant in Cornubia.
MEC Pillay visited the warehouse this afternoon to assess the physical damage to the plant and also to receive a briefing on the impact to the environment and the remedial measures being undertaken.
The warehouse was set alight earlier this week during the unrest that engulfed parts of the province. The damage caused as a result of the fire has been estimated to be more than R1 billion.
It is understood that due to the intensity of the fire, large volumes of water had to be used and this led to catchment devices being overwhelmed leading to contaminated water sipping into the uMhlangana stream then to the uMhlanga river and into the sea.
This has had an impact on marine life and the eThekwini municipality banning bathing activities at affected beaches as a precautionary measure.
When MEC Pillay and officials from the EDTEA visited the site, industrial cleaning crews were already hard at work to contain any further impact on the environment. Reports received indicated that the spillage from the plant had been successfully contained.
MEC Pillay expressed satisfaction with the clean-up operation, saying: “It is up to the highest of standards. They (UPL) were not the cause of this particular problem and so there cannot be any punitive approach to it but the law prescribes some recovery processes and compliance and that is what the department will be following very closely”.
The plant housed a wide range of chemicals used in the manufacture of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and other agro processing chemicals.
“Our team is satisfied that there is no risk to public health from this facility. There is another issue of the smell but the team here is adamant that it is not from this plant and that it is probably from another source and that is another investigation we are undertaking,” said MEC Pillay adding that air quality testing was underway.
The MEC added that water samples had also been taken and the results are expected early next week.
Commenting generally on the recovery and clean-up efforts taking place across the province, MEC Pillay said he was greatly inspired by South Africans who have rallied behind these efforts. “Generally, I am quite encouraged by the extreme goodwill and determination that is being shown by communities, civil society and the business sector. We are the children of Nelson Mandela, we will never be defeated and no matter what obstacles we face we will rise but words alone will not be enough, there needs to be action. The way we have dealt with the immediate tasks has inspired some confidence in the business sector and encouraged them to rally like they are rallying”.