Chemical spill scare in city

2011-06-22 00:00

A CHEMICAL spill has been blamed for the “bad smell” experienced by residents in parts of the city on Tuesday last week.

This led to a municipal investigation that found that an industrial company had released fumes from a mixing receptacle.

The company involved is DyStar Boehme Africa (Pty) Ltd, which is in Sheffield Road in Willowton.

The company, which has branches across the globe, is a supplier of textile dyes and manufactures a wide range of chemicals.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said a leak occured during the manufacturing of a polymer product that is used as a binder.

“The municipality received about a dozen complaints from the areas [near] to the plant, as well as in the areas of Hayfields and Scottsville,” said Zuma.

About a cubic metre of chemical was spilled.

“Measures were put in place to contain the spill to evacuate the process area of all personnel and to clean it up,” Zuma added.

According to a source, employees were sent home and some still need to undergo lung tests.

It is believed that at the time of inspection on Tuesday afternoon last week, most of the emissions had dissipated.

Finance and operations director at DyStar Boehme Africa, Ronald Clancy, said that although the incident is “regrettable” it did not pose any health hazards to the environment.

“There is adequate distance between the plant and the surrounding residential area and it doesn’t pose any health risks,” he emphasised. 

Clancy said that the company complies with “stringent and strict standards as dictated by the International Organisation for Standardisation and has necessary emergency and evacuation strategies in place”.

DyStar Boehme Africa was not fined by the municipality.

Environmental campaigner groundWork’s air quality standards manager, Siziwe Khanyile, said that for the company to declare there is “no hazard” is premature unless it has done a health risk assessment.

“It cannot be accurate that there was no hazard because it is still not clear what type of chemical was released,” Khanyile added.

She told The Witness that the municipality should trace each complainant, do health assessments and check the results of the monitoring station.

“Whether it was an once-off accident, was it due to negligence or is it an ongoing nuisance that residents and the environment will have to continuously be exposed to?

“There are national ambient air quality standards that municipalities should ensure are not exceeded,” Khanyile added.

More investigations will take place to find what could have caused problem, said the source.

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