Port oil spill sparks concerns
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The spill happened near the port’s dry dock area.
Joseph said: “This event spells danger for the marine life, bird life as well as human life within the area. Oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters, and the water repellency of a bird’s feathers, thus exposing these creatures to the harsh elements.”
This could lead to the animals suffering from hypothermia, Joseph said.
Humans could also be directly or indirectly affected by the spill, he said.
“By breathing contaminated air, since oil and products (petroleum products) have many volatile compounds which are emitted as gases from spilled oil, the air becomes contaminated with those volatile oil products or vapours producing specific odours.”
The risk was still present even though there was no odour. The vapours could travel long distances and pose health risks even if they were not as great as at the centre of the spill.
Contaminated water does not need to have an oil sheen and people could unwittingly find themselves swimming in the polluted water.
Food can also be contaminated through organisms that people consume, he said. “This is especially problematic since residents could be exposed even if they live far away from an oil spill, if they consume food coming from a spill-affected area.”
In a statement, Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said it had dispatched a team to contain the oil spill. The statement said the spillage was first reported on Wednesday night.
Through investigation, the organisation discovered the spillage was caused by contractors working at a nearby hospital.
The organisation has hired the services of a pollution control company to deal with the spillage. A boom from Maydon Wharf berth 12 to the premises of Elgin Brown & Hamer, a ship-repairing company, has been set up to make sure the spill remains within the port.
In addition, oil was being skimmed from the surface of the water, the statement said.
Operations were not interrupted by spillage and the Department of Environmental Affairs and the SA Maritime Safety Authority have been informed of the incident.
Durban port manager Moshe Motlohi said: “The clean-up team is working as fast as it can and mopping-up operations will be ongoing to minimise any negative environmental impact.”