THE DA in KwaZulu-Natal has urged United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) to address the public instead of issuing statements and picking fights with politicians. File Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)
THE DA in KwaZulu-Natal has urged United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) to address the public instead of issuing statements and picking fights with politicians. File Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban factory urged to address the public and ’come clean’ on chemical spill

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Sep 10, 2021

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Durban - THE DA in KwaZulu-Natal has urged United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) to address the public instead of issuing statements and picking fights with politicians.

Yesterday, DA spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) Heinz de Boer said the provincial government had received the test results on the sampling done by the UPL specialists.

“Why don't they (UPL) spend the money on taking those test results and making them public because the public has to deal with the chemicals in the sea and in the river, and it is the public who had to deal with the chemicals in the air from that toxic plume of smoke,” De Boer said.

“The evidence is there, the test results are there, why don't you now come clean UPL and actually tell the public who were the worst affected, and tell the tourism community who are worst affected by the spillage, what’s in the water, when the beaches can be reopened, what are the long-term health effects? Step up, be responsible as a company and tell us what is in the water.”

De Boer said despite the assurances by EDTEA MEC Ravi Pillay at the public meeting last Saturday, that the beaches might be open by the end of the week, the beaches were still closed.

The UPL warehouse in Cornubia, north of Durban, was set alight during the looting and civil unrest in July. This resulted in a chemical spillage which affected residents’ health and as the spill contaminated the Ohlanga River and uMhlanga Estuary, which leads to the sea in the uMhlanga area, authorities closed the beaches. There have been several meetings regarding the spill.

“UPL had utterly failed to provide any kind of information that was meaningful to the public, not to the provincial government which is so slow in releasing information, to the public. Tell us what was in the warehouse officially, tell us the public, make it known, put out a press release on that,” said De Boer, referring to a press release issued by UPL last week disputing claims that a case had been opened and that UPL was not forthcoming with information.

Premier Sihle Zikalala said the executive council had received a report on the UPL warehouse fire and noted with concern the environmental disaster caused by the incident and the danger it posed to the citizens and businesses in the area.

“The executive council supports a thorough investigation into the cause of this incident and further calls for criminal enforcement against anyone found guilty for their role in this matter. The executive council has directed that affected communities be continuously kept abreast of the progress with regard to efforts aimed at resolving this matter,” he said.

UPL had not commented on the criminal case by the time of publication.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the matter was still under investigation and did not divulge whether UPL had been approached following the opening of the case.

Last Thursday, UPL issued a statement stating that the company knew nothing about the charges and that De Boer had said UPL was playing “cat and mouse” and the company had provided “unsatisfactory reports”, “unsatisfactory responses” and had failed to supply necessary documents and information to the authorities.

UPL said it was untrue and has complied fully with its reporting obligations, has been working closely with the relevant national, provincial and local government authorities, and has been fully compliant with the s.30 Directive issued by EDTEA. It said it disclosed its inventories and its team of experts has employed an array of measures to contain and progressively clean up the contamination. UPL added it is conducting an extensive chemical sampling and testing regime, the results of which are being fully disclosed to the authorities.

Daily News

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