Cyanide spill: firm may face fine

2012-02-21 00:00

THE Blue and Green Scorpions, which investigate environmental crimes, are probing last week’s northern KZN cyanide spill.

Twelve cattle died after drinking from a contaminated stream near Newcastle’s Karbochem plant. This stream flows into the Ngagane River, which supplies Dundee’s raw water.

Jay Reddy of the Water Affairs Department in KZN confirmed yesterday that law enforcers from his department and from Environmental Affairs are investigating and that legal steps against Karbochem have not been ruled out.

Karbochem spokesperson Jaco Prinsloo said the company accepts full responsibility for the cyanide spill, even though they do not use cyanide in the manufacture of synthetic rubber.

He said the cyanide apparently came from another plant that shares the Karbochem site, which he declined to name.

“We use the same pipeline within a closed system,” he said. It is suspected that this pipe leaked.

Shortly afterwards the carcasses of 12 cattle were found in the stream. Prinsloo said the company was in talks with the two farmers who lost cattle and was willing to compensate them.

“We are conducting our own internal investigation,” Prinsloo said. He said Karbochem immediately informed Water Affairs of the spill.

Reddy said his department’s disaster team released 50 000 litres of water from the Ntshingwyo dam to dilute the cyanide and safeguard the water supplies of Newcastle and Dundee.

Dumisani Thabethe of uThukela Water said he was not initially convinced diluting the stream’s water was the best way to deal with the spill, as he feared it would cause other problems downstream, but after discussions, the utility felt it was the best, and possibly the only, solution.

Prinsloo said that clean-up was complete and operations had returned to normal.

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