Factory leaks palm oil into river

2008-12-15 00:00

OIL leaking from the Capital Soaps factory in Willowton reached the waters of the Baynespruit yesterday.

“It can cause pollution if not cleaned up properly,” said Lin Gravelet-Blondin, deputy director for water quality management with the department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

According to the Msunduzi fire, rescue and disaster management station officer, Cedric Karls, a tank containing palm oil used to make soap at the factory leaked extensively as a result of a failed valve.

“The valve was situated at the bottom of the tank, and as gravity would have it, a lot of its contents leaked out,” he said.

The unit received a call for assistance from the company at around 10 am. When it arrived, the spillage had already spread beyond the premises.

Gravelet-Blondin confirmed yesterday evening that 30 of the 70 tons of oil in the tank had leaked out. “The people on site managed to hold back most of this … Between five to 10 tons leaked beyond the factory’s premises and about two to three tons of this reached the water,” he said.

Although palm oil is generally not harmful to the environment, he added, it could reduce the amount of oxygen in the water, causing aquatic life to die.

Gravelet-Blondin said that Capital Soaps is committed to cleaning up the river.

“I told the owner that if they do not do so adequately, I will send a clean-up team there at his expense.”

He said that so far all was going well in the clean-up exercise, but cleaning the sewers is more difficult.

“Because of the cold water, the oil solidified and it was easier to remove it from the river. But this makes it a lot harder to clean what solidified in the drainage system.”

Bobby Peek, a spokesman for environmental group Groundwork, said the department has never been firm enough with companies that contaminate the river’s waters.

“This is not the first time that the river has been contaminated … but at least this time we know who is responsible so that we can hold them accountable.”

Capital Soaps could not be reached for comment.

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