GOVERNMENT KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON CORNUBIA POLLUTION DAM
The KZN government is assessing the impact of flood damage to the pollution control dam that is still believed to be holding an arsenal of toxic pesticides and agricultural chemicals from the United Phosphorous Limited (UPL) warehouse fire during the July 2021 looting in Durban.
On the evening of April 12, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) issued a statement saying that it was “keeping a close watch on the impact of the flood damage on the UPL Pollution Control Dam (PCD) at the Cornubia site.”
It is still not clear what chemicals were stored in the warehouse at the time of the fire.
However, the dam was constructed to store the toxic residue following the clean-up of the warehouse that was operated by the Indian owned multinational.
The Daily Maverick has reported that the dam could contain a cocktail of poisons including heavy metals such as arsenic and copper, along with pesticides such as atrazine, terbuthylazine, metolachlor, atrazine, triclopyr and 2,4-D.
The burned-out warehouse still overlooks the N2 leading into and out of Durban and further action stemming from an alleged report into incidents surrounding the fire is yet to be announced.
It was one of a number of buildings that was torched during the mayhem on July 12, 2021, sending a toxic cloud into the sky above Durban and leaking into the Olanga River and Umhlanga Estuary, killing around four tonnes of fish and poisoning other marine wildlife.
The city was forced to close beaches to the North of Durban.
There have been reports of leakage from the dam after heavy rains in Durban this week.
The statement issued by EDTEA said that an inter-departmental team made up of EDTEA, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and the eThekwini Municipality had conducted physical inspections to assess the impact on the overflow of the PCD caused by flooding.
“Since the incident in July 2021, the PDC has been used to contain contaminated water which was then pumped out and transported by tankers for safe disposal.
“The department has noted that the last test result on 29 March 2022 revealed a relatively low level of contamination. Any risk will also be further mitigated by a high dilution factor due to the high volume of floodwaters and further dispersal downstream. The Department has been advised by experts that the overflow is therefore not of concern,” the statement said.
Nevertheless, it said that the interdepartmental team would continue to monitor the situation and further tests would be conducted at the PDC as well as downstream up to the estuary and the ocean.
“The public is reminded that the area remains an ‘exclusion zone’ in force. The zone is one kilometre north and south of the estuary and into the sea is out of bounds for recreation, fishing and marine resource harvesting,” EDTEA warned.
EDTEA said that further updates would be issued as and when necessary.