Scope of spill site clean-up may be much bigger

2015-03-11 00:00

THE size of the clean-up operation at the site of the burst diesel pipeline at an estate in Hillcrest may have been underestimated.

And according to the developer of the adjacent plush estate Greenvale Village, the bad publicity has seen some banks refuse to issue home loans to potential buyers for Greenfield projects, claiming the area is “covered in oil”.

A source closely involved in mop-up operation confirmed to The Witness that contaminated soil has been found as deep as 13 metres in some areas — a depth equivalent to the height of a double-storey house.

Previously the deepest contamination had been estimated at about four metres.

Just days before Christmas last year, a pipeline running from Durban to Gauteng carrying diesel fuel ruptured, spewing out over 200 000 litres of the fuel.

Saret Knoetze, spokesperson for Transnet Pipelines Durban, said the entire spill, which also contaminated the gardens of houses, common land and a pasture field, has different time frames for final rehabilitation.

“Some of the houses should be ready for landscaping by the end of April, others by July and the common property later this year. The nearby farmland should be rehabilitated by next year.”

While unable to confirm if any soil was found contaminated at depths greater than 10 metres, she said “sample testing” was part of the process.

“The contaminated areas are site specific. We are testing at various levels and various depths and then excavate a specific site. Some of the soil is treated,” said Knoetze.

Greenvale Village Homeowners ­Association chairperson John Elmer said while “Transnet has been very co-operative, they are going to be there for a long time”.

“There are permanently about 50 skips near the site to hold the removed soil,” said Elmer.

But he maintains what happened was not a disaster. “The affected families have been looked after …”

Greenvale developer Mac Scott-Wilson said the spill, while not affecting property prices, had stymied potential buyers’ ability to get bonds.

“[A large South African] bank won’t issue bonds on vacant land for development within our new phase, which is more than 500 metres away. They say the area is covered in oil. This is outrageous,” said Scott-Wilson.

In a document sent to him by Transnet, the parastatal said 1 590 sq/m of the complex’s land and adjacent common land was affected by the spill. They also committed to have “four affected gardens … rehabilitated by the end of April 2015”.

All rehabilitation will entail a full sign-off by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Transnet has said the pipeline will be decommissioned “post 2016”.

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