eThekwini Municipality says revised reports expected this week will determine if beaches closed after the UPL chemical spill, should reopen



Published Sep 13, 2021


DURBAN – Revised reports are expected this week to assist eThekwini Municipality to make a decision on whether beaches north of Durban can reopen to the public.

Beaches were closed as a precaution after a fire engulfed the United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) warehouse in Cornubia during the unrest in July, resulting in contamination of the Ohlanga River and uMhlanga Estuary, which leads to the sea in the uMhlanga.

Authorities closed the beaches as it was not known how far the contamination had spread, what chemicals had leached into the sea, and what effect it would have on human health.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the beaches would reopen once authorities were satisfied there was no risk to public health.

“Revised reports are expected this week which will then be sent for a peer review before a decision is taken on whether to open the beaches or not,” he said.

The municipality appealed to the public to be patient and comply with requests from the authorities for their own safety.

“The beaches from Umgeni River to Salt Rock are still closed. All activities on those specific beaches are temporarily prohibited as a precautionary measure. This includes, swimming, fishing, surfing, and collecting of marine life such as mussels off the rocks,” said Mayisela.

The Mercury reported yesterday that a report by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) into the spill was at an advanced stage.

DFFE minister Barbara Creecy said she had committed in the National Assembly to release the findings of the investigation by a multi-departmental investigative team on the compliance profile of UPL by the end of this month.

The ongoing investigation is looking at aspects related to environmental law, requirements for major hazard installations, relevant licensing requirements under the Hazardous Substances Act and the Fertilisers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies Act, as well as the legal requirements set out in the local by-laws.

“The drafting of that report is at an advanced stage and the department remains on track to disclose this to the public as the minister committed to do,” said the department.