The poluted mouth of the iSipingo River. Picture: Marilyn Bernard
The poluted mouth of the iSipingo River. Picture: Marilyn Bernard

Anger over KZN 'fish-kill factory'

By Bernadette Wolhuter Time of article published Jan 10, 2014

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Durban - The eThekwini municipality has been criticised for its refusal to name the Prospecton factory that has been polluting the iSipingo River, where thousands of dead fish washed up earlier this week.

Amanzimtoti ward councillor André Beetge said those responsible needed to be named and shamed.

“If the city knows for sure who it is, if they have proof, they should not protect them.”

The factory had to be held accountable to the public.

City spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said on Thursday that “action” had been taken against the factory, but he would not disclose its name, the type of pollutant or the nature of the action taken.

The fish washed up on the banks of the river mouth, in the south of Durban, on Tuesday.

The river water had taken on a black colour and a strong smell permeated the area.

Mofokeng said investigations found the factory had been “illegally discharging” into the river.

Adding to this problem was that a 400mm sewer pipe, feeding the Joyner Road sewage pump station, in Jeffels Road, Prospecton, had failed. This was apparently due to the theft of a steel bracket that had been holding up the pipe.

“The pollution was compounded by a dry-ish period, followed by rainfall, which generally generates poor quality run-off,” he said.

A number of departments, including health, were working on the issue. Mofokeng said most of the dead fish had been taken to a landfill site.

“The city has started repairs to the sewer line, but this will take some time to rectify,” said Mofokeng.

Attempts would be made to remove the remaining fish and to aerate part of the lagoon today.

“If this fails we will approach Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Affairs to breach the lagoon and flush the pollution out,” Mofokeng said.

As a health precaution people have been advised not to swim or fish in the area until the matter has been resolved.

Beetge said the fish kill was not an isolated incident. Such problems plagued the whole south Durban area.

“A pump station failed in Amanzimtoti in December and we had dead fish in the Winklespruit River,” he said.

“The infrastructure here is rotten. It is not being maintained and those who are supposed to maintain it seem to lack the necessary knowledge.”

Beetge said it was time for someone to “take ownership” of the problem.

Controversy has surrounded the area over the past decade. In September 2004, it was reported that fish had died. This followed an oil leak from the Sapref offshore oil pipeline, but the authorities said there was no connection.

In September 2012, the media reported a study by the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology that analysed industrial plastic pellets on beaches around the world and found that those collected on Isipingo Beach had the highest concentration of hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH), a toxic substance that is used as an insecticide.

The Mercury

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