Massive die-out of wildlife after Dorpspruit oil spill

2016-09-28 10:01
Msunduzi fireman Neil Beyers with the duckling he and his fellow firefighters saved yesterday afternoon after oil spilled into the Dorpspruit. The duckling, who the firemen have named Baba, was covered in oil when found and highly ‘distressed’. Baba was first taken to the Pietermaritzburg SPCA and is now resting at FreeMe KZN Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

Msunduzi fireman Neil Beyers with the duckling he and his fellow firefighters saved yesterday afternoon after oil spilled into the Dorpspruit. The duckling, who the firemen have named Baba, was covered in oil when found and highly ‘distressed’. Baba was first taken to the Pietermaritzburg SPCA and is now resting at FreeMe KZN Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. (Chelsea Pieterse)

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A major oil spill in the Dorp­spruit is said to cause a “massive die-out” of wildlife living in and around the river.

The thick tar-like substance, suspected to be furnace oil, had blanketed much of the Dorpspruit running from Grey’s Hospital to the Royal Showgrounds on Tuesday.

The oil was first noticed on Monday, when a resident called in and said they had noticed a change in the colour of the water.

The Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) then received a report from Royal Agricultural Show (RAS) director Terry Strachan that oil had covered the surface of the stream running through the showgrounds, with a few birds becoming stuck in the sludge.

Strachan said the RAS office had saved two birds, one a gosling, from the spillage.

He said the office had scooped the birds from the river and washed off the oil that had coated their feathers.

“Any pollution in the waterway is a disgrace. This needs to be nipped in the bud,” said Strachan.

“Whoever is responsible for the spill needs to be called to order,” he said.

Msunduzi firefighters Neil Beyers, Keagen Naicker, Franklin Brown and Sbu Vilakazi also saved a bird from drowning in the oil slick.

The duckling, who the firemen have named Baba, was seen struggling to keep her head above water in the stream at the RAS.

Beyers waded into the hip-deep water and pulled Baba out.

He said she was “very distressed” and looked like she had just “given up”.

Naicker said the firemen sprinkled sawdust into the stream as it was an absorbent and would, to some extent, stop the oil from flowing further downstream.

Duct pollution control officer Sanele Vilakazi said the pollution was traced to near Grey’s Hospital, but the actual source could not be found.

He said the oil was still flowing strongly into the river yesterday afternoon, and that measures to stop the spread of the leak were pricey.

Vilakazi said it would be better to find the source and stop the leak there, but Duct, along with the Msunduzi Municipality, were unable to pinpoint it by Tuesday afternoon.

“This will have a major effect on the environment and there will be a massive die-off of wildlife further downstream due to the rain that has been predicted,” he said.

“A huge concern for us is that once the rain comes, we will be unable to trace the source of the spill, and the culprit will not be taken to task and the oil will spread further down the river.”

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the route of the oil was traced via the tributary behind the KZN Motor Licensing Centre and to Grey’s Hospital.

However, the perpetrator could not be identified.

“The fire department and Hazclean are on site and attempting to contain the spill.

“Samples have been taken for analysis by Duct, and the results may help identify the source.”

She said legal action would be taken against the culprits if sufficient evidence is found.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  oil spill

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