Diesel flood at posh estate

2014-12-24 00:00

A RUPTURED diesel pipeline that spouted 200 000 litres of toxic fuel into a posh Hillcrest estate may prompt a full scale evacuation just before Christmas.

The underground pipeline, which transports diesel from Durban to ­Johannesburg at high pressure, burst in Greenvale Estate in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Four homes and an adjacent farm were flooded — with surges of knee-deep ­diesel running downhill.

The source of the rupture sent streams of diesel as high as the treetops for nearly an hour before the line was shut down.

Environmentalists have warned of a clear danger for residents if not evacuated from the site.

They insisted that environmental ­fallout would be long-lasting, as fears of contaminated underground water continue to mount.

Transnet rebuffed claims that the line was not well maintained as the clean-up, expected to take years and estimated at millions of rands, began in earnest.

Groundwork environmental justice head Bobby Peek called for an immediate evacuation of the area.

“People should be evacuated as the fumes contain carcinogenic chemicals; you don’t want to be living in a diesel spill,” he said.

“Diesel is a hydro-carbon, primarily derived from crude oil, which will ­suffocate the environment for years to come. They are not going to be able to rehabilitate the area and the soil will ­become unviable and the water contaminated,” Peek said.

He slammed Transnet for allowing developers to build over old pipelines.

“This is one of their old pipelines so we must ask why the state allowed developers to build over the pipeline because it is fundamentally illegal.”

DA ward councillor Rick Crouch echoed the call for residents to move away from the affected area.

“I am not an environmental expert but I would strongly suggest that people adhere to what they have to say. I visited the site and the smell of diesel is heavy in the air and it cannot be healthy to live in close proximity to that,” he said.

He added that last year a resident had raised concern over the safety of the pipeline.

“Residents in the estate had been complaining that there was a loud noise coming from the pipeline when the fuel passed through it. I raised the concerns with Transnet and one of their officials took me on a long tour and extolled the safety of their operation and now this happens,” Crouch said.

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance chairperson Desmond D’Sa questioned why homes had been built so close to the arterial pipeline.

“This smacks of poor workmanship. These pipelines are built cheap and they are completely corrosive. There have been over 50 pipeline leaks in Durban since 1995,” he said.

“Pipelines need to be refurbished after 30 years and these have been in the ground since the 50s and 60s. Transnet doesn’t have the infrastructure to maintain these pipes,” D’Sa added.

He said the spillage would have a ­significant effect on the water table and the environment.

“It will have an effect on the clean running water, and in turn will have an effect on the health of residents if they come into contact with the water, either through drinking or eating vegetables grown from the contaminated soil. These kind of clean-up operations take years to be done properly,” he warned.

Transnet spokesperson Saret Knoetze confirmed that their clean-up crews had descended on the site.

“Transnet Pipelines reported a pipeline incident the Durban-to-Johannesburg pipeline outside Hillcrest at the Greenvale Village. The pipeline was shut-down immediately and the emergency plan was activated,” she said.

“The local emergency response teams as well as the Transnet Pipelines repair and environmental teams are on site and the affected area has been made safe. ­Repairs to the pipeline will commence once it is safe to do so.”

She added that while diesel flooded the grounds of the security estate, the supply to inland hubs had not been affected.

“The rehabilitation of the affected properties has commenced. It is estimated that approximately 200 000 litres of diesel was spilled. There is, however, no concern with regard to supply of product to the inland market area. Four properties have been affected in the village as well as the adjacent farmland. Residents have not been evacuated.”

Knoetze denounced allegations that the pipeline network was not well maintained. “We have maintenance plans in place with regular checks on all valves and pipes so the allegations aren’t true. The rehabilitation of the area will take a few months but the repairing of the pipeline should take about two days, after which it will be up and running.”

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za,

amil.umraw@witness.co.za

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