Report into UPL chemical spill during KZN unrest at an advanced stage, says Environment Minister Barbara Creecy

Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy. File Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy. File Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Sep 12, 2021


DURBAN - The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) Barbara Creecy said the drafting of the report into the United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) pesticide and agro-chemicals warehouse spill in Cornubia was at an advanced stage.

Creecy was replying to a parliamentary question about the fire at the UPL warehouse.

The chemical spill occurred as a result of a fire that engulfed the warehouse during the unrest in July. The chemicals contaminated the Ohlanga River and uMhlanga Estuary, which leads to the sea in the uMhlanga area.

Authorities closed beaches north of Durban as a precautionary measure 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.

The matter has also raised concern for the tourism industry which is still navigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Creecy was responding to questions asked by the DA’s Dr David William Bryant.

The minister said on August 25, she had committed in the National Assembly to release the findings of the investigation by a multi-departmental investigative team in relation to the compliance profile of United Phosphorus Limited (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 various 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,” she said.

Asked whether she had been informed of the storage of dangerous chemicals in close proximity, Creecy said she was not aware of this.

She also said the DFFE was not the competent authority for issuing environmental authorisations in respect of such an activity as this function lay with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

The minister noted that the DFFE had received 12 complaints from the public through the departments Environmental Crime and Incidents Hotline regarding the fire before it was fully extinguished.

“It should, however, be noted that the majority of the complaints were reported to the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality,” said Creecy.


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