A Karbochem factory.
A Karbochem factory.

Company admits to cyanide spill

By Sharika Regchand Time of article published Feb 20, 2012

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A Newcastle company says it will compensate the owners of cattle which died of cyanide poisoning following pollution of the town’s Ngagane River last week.

The Water Affairs and Forestry Department said a formal investigation would be launched into the incident following the deaths of 15 cattle.

Jaco Prinsloo, spokesman for synthetic rubber manufacturer Karbochem, said those who had lost cattle as a result of the poisoning would be compensated.

It was the first time in 30 years of operation that such an incident had occurred, he said.

“We have rectified the situation and there is no way it will happen again,” Prinsloo said.

Water Affairs acting regional director Jay Reddy said legal action would be taken against the party responsible.

Jeffrey Zikhali, spokesman for the Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development Department, said that officials of that department would be joined by those from the Water Affairs and the Amajuba district municipality in the investigation. He said water samples had been collected by Karbochem, which confirmed the lethal cyanide levels in the water.

Zikhali added that Karbochem’s four industrial sites would be investigated to check for other elements or metals that may have contaminated the river, while a carcass had been sent to the Vryheid veterinary services laboratory to be tested.

Chlorine had been added to neutralise the cyanide in the water.

Zikhali assured residents that the drinking water had not been affected. However, he cautioned rural residents from using water directly from streams.

Livestock owners were encouraged to herd their cattle away from the river until conclusive results on its water quality were received.

Dumisani Thabethe, of uThukela Water, said that the cyanide had been diluted to safe levels.

The water utility company would continue monitoring the water. - The Mercury

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