Now Inanda Dam tainted as chemical spill into KZN rivers spreads
Communities living along the Msunduzi and Umgeni rivers should not drink the water or swim in it following a vegetable oil and caustic acid spill.
KwaZulu-Natal's economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, on Friday “strongly cautioned” communities to stay away from the rivers.
And later on Friday, the eThekwini municipality added its voice to the warnings, urging residents to avoid using water from the Inanda Dam, between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
"The city would like to caution residents against making use of water from the Inanda Dam after reports that the large spill of caustic soda from the Msundusi River has worked its way downstream into the dam. Caustic soda is a very alkaline material and is therefore corrosive.
"Residents upstream of the dam and in the dam surroundings are advised not to expose themselves to the water in the river nor should they allow livestock to drink such water until further notice," said spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela.
He added that residents would be informed once the water was safe.
"We are also worried about reported incidents of livestock being affected. What is more concerning is that this happened right when we were holding a climate-change summit that dealt with, among other things, the pollution of our rivers and water sources," Dube-Ncube said.
Vegetable oil and caustic acid from the Willowton Group's oil factory spilled into the Baynespruit stream, polluting the water.
The pollution reached Umsunduzi River into which Baynespruit flows. It also reportedly affected the Darvill waste water treatment plant, the main one for Pietermaritzburg.
"I can confirm this unfortunate incident. We are working around the clock with other government departments and our own environmental unit toward a speedy resolution and to speedily address the contamination of Baynespruit stream, a small tributary that flows into Msunduzi River whose waters have also been contaminated as a result," said Dube-Ncube.
Willowton Oil Mills has appointed spillage companies for clean-up operations.
Dube-Ncube's spokesperson, Nathi Olifant, said the matter had been reported to the human settlements and water and sanitation departments, the Msunduzi municipality, Umgeni Water and EDTEA, which were collectively dealing with the incident.
“DHSWS has taken the leading role since the spillage has affected mainly the water courses. The company will also have to submit a report to EDTEA in compliance with the National Environmental Management Act, regarding the management of spillages.”
He said the department would monitor the situation.
"The MEC is very worried and is working with all concerned parties to rectify this dire situation. We are exploring all available legal and compliance avenues towards a speedy resolution."