DURBAN - FOSKOR has said a suspected gas leak, which saw schoolchildren from Richards Bay being hospitalised on Monday, had not emanated from its plant.
The company released a statement yesterday after a local councillor and residents said they had suspected that the foul air came from the plant.
Paramedics said on Monday that pupils and some residents experienced nausea, vomiting and breathing difficulties after inhaling the noxious air.
Hulisani Nemaxwi, group manager for corporate affairs at Foskor said in the statement that they received a complaint of a possible gas leak at their acid plant from the uMhlathuze Municipality.
“Foskor received a complaint from the uMhlathuze Local Municipality regarding a possible gas leak from our acid plant at a localised area of Richards Bay High School.
“A detailed investigation was immediately conducted by our team which revealed that there was no such gas leak at Foskor facilities.”
Nemaxwi said that their acid plant monitoring was done daily as part of the preventive maintenance programme to ensure that plant integrity was within standards to avoid gas leaks.
“Foskor operates three sulphuric acid plants, called A, B and C. Two of our plants, being A and B, had been taken down for routine planned maintenance, and operating data for plant C indicated that Foskor was operating within the minimum emission standards.”
Nemaxwi added that Foskor wishes the school pupils a speedy recovery.
City of uMhlathuze Municipality spokesperson Mdu Ncalane said that the source of the foul air had not yet been found.
“Our team from Air Quality
uMhlathuze conducted an investigation and did not find anything from samples taken that suggest a gas or toxic leak and (the incident) is not linked to any of the nearby companies.”
Ncalane added that the mayor of uMhlathuze had requested the Department of Education to conduct its own investigation into the source of the incident.
“The mayor has called upon both the Department of Education and the affected school to conduct their own investigation. We did not find a gas leak.”
Sandy Camminga, director and communications officer of Richards Bay Clean Air Association, said that they had been inundated with complaints from residents.
“We are busy consolidating the numerous complaints that we have received and will update accordingly.”
Camminga said that they were aware of the statement issued by Foskor.
“We will also be conducting our own investigation into the suspected gas leak. We will need time to look at our own data to determine the source of the gas leak. We will also continue to engage the management of Foskor.”
Camminga added that residents had complained on Monday about being affected with symptoms from the early hours of the morning.
“There has been some miscommunication that only Richards Bay Hoërskool was affected, which is not true. We were receiving complaints from residents before emergency services were called in to treat the learners. There was also another nearby school where we received complaints about learners experiencing symptoms.”
A detailed investigation was immediately conducted by our team which revealed that there was no such gas leak at Foskor facilities.