Mechanical failure caused cyanide spill
Johannesburg - Mechanical failure at a synthetic rubber manufacturer caused cyanide to leak into the raw water supply of towns in northern KwaZulu-Natal, the company said on Monday.
"It was found that mechanical failure of equipment caused contaminated water to leak into the storm water system," said Karbochem spokesperson Jaco Prinsloo.
"The equipment has been repaired and steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence."
On Thursday, cyanide spilled into a stream near the Karbochem site in Newcastle. The stream flows into the Ngagane River which was the source of the area's raw water supplies.
There have been no reports of human fatalities, but the spillage did result in the death of 12 heads of cattle.
Karbochem has offered to compensate farmers and local residents in the area who had been affected.
"We take full responsibility for the 12 cows that have died."
Karbochem was in discussions with the two affected farmers on their compensation.
Prinsloo said in a statement that clean-up operations were completed and site operations had returned to normal.
Water now safe
After the spillage last week, the river was flushed and by Friday afternoon Karbochem reported the water was safe.
"[The cyanide levels are] far within the safe and legal limits," said Prinsloo.
He said tests of the water revealed less that 50 parts of cyanide per million parts of water as legally required.
"The levels are very far below that. It is below two parts per million."
Acting regional director for water resource management Jay Reddy said the department handed an investigation into the spillage over to the compliance monitoring and enforcement unit of the department of water affairs.
"Once the investigations are done, the department will decide what steps to take."
Prinsloo said he could not comment on any legal action against Karbochem as the matter was sub judice at this stage.