Crude oil spill in river

2019-02-27 15:19
Concerned resident Eve Hughes surveys the process to soak up crude oil spilled in a tribituary of the Umgeni river. PHOTO: Kerushun Pillay

Concerned resident Eve Hughes surveys the process to soak up crude oil spilled in a tribituary of the Umgeni river. PHOTO: Kerushun Pillay

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A stretch of the Umgeni River in Howick has been polluted with crude oil. 

Crude oil — spilled from a Transnet depot — was spotted by community members and reported to Transnet earlier this month.

The oil has flowed into a tributary of the Umgeni at a point about two kilometres from the Umgeni itself.

Local environmental activists and concerned citizens fear that the spill has compromised animals and plantlife around the river. The area is also popular for walking dogs and swimming.

The Witness on Tuesday visited the site, which is alongside the N3 near Howick, not far from the railway bridge. Clean-up crews were on site to soak up the oil with wood pulp, which was then scooped out of the river.

The crews have also inserted material into the water to stop the oil from flowing further downstream.

Eve Hughes, who serves on the area ward committee’s environmental portfolio and has worked for the Wildlife and Environment Society South Africa (Wessa), was concerned for nearby animals. “People bring their cattle to graze here and drink from the river. Plants, frogs, insects and aquatic life are all in danger. What worries me is that the public was never notified about this pollution.

“People come here to walk their dogs and people play in the water. Why was nothing said?”

Another concerned citizen, Pam Haynes, who is also a volunteer for the Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust, said she was notified about the spillage two weeks ago by cyclists who smelled oil in the area. “Cyclists were going past Tweedie and when they saw the spillage they called me. The question is: how long has this spill been sitting there? Would they be attending to it if we didn’t report it?

“We are concerned about how this river will be rehabilitated because there would have been damage to plants and the river.”

Simon Brewton, a hydrologist, said he would soon visit the site and assess any possible damage to the river.

Transnet confirmed the spillage happened at its Howick depot. “Unfortunately due to the rain, some crude oil spilled into the nearby stream, via the storm water drain. “We immediately deployed an environmental team to contain the product and rehabilitate the affected area. Additional absorbents and booms are strategically placed in the stream while rehabilitation continues,” a spokesperson said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water pollution

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