Sammy-Joe now has a bulldozer in her back garden

Durban - According to Transnet Pipelines spokesman, Saret Knoetze, the cause of the pipeline burst is still under investigation, but the cost of the clean-up will be huge.

“The pipe was repaired by Thursday morning. Gardens and adjacent farmland were contaminated and we are currently removing the contaminated soil.

“The rehabilitation will take a few months and it is estimated that the costs will be in excess of R10 million,” said Knoetze.

But environmental activist, Desmond D’Sa, believes the cost of the clean-up, and length of time it will take, will invariably increase.

“We estimate that it was at least double the 200 000 litres that Transnet is saying (was spilt). It will take a long time to clean up and the longer it takes the more the costs will escalate, but I’m sure it will be more than R10 million,” said D’Sa.

D’Sa pointed to numerous spills in South Durban as evidence.

“From our experiences in South Durban, we know that the damage will be devastating and long term. We have experienced numerous spills and leaks from Shell, BP and the SB Mooring pipe that brings 80 percent of the crude oil into Durban, and the clean-up is always very costly and takes a long time. There was a spill on the Bluff in 2001 which has taken over 12 years to clean up,” said D’Sa.

As for the health impacts, they are potentially devastating.

“Diesel is a hydro-carbon that not only affects people’s houses but is very dangerous to people’s health. Health studies in 2002 and 2007 found that the emissions from petro-chemical plants put the cancer risk at 500 times the norm (1:100 000) and that 75 percent of cancers in South Durban are caused by the release of chemicals from the petro-chemical facilities,” said D’Sa.

He urged those affected to move out immediately and to take on Transnet.

“Transnet must take responsibility. They must pay for the damages. They knew the risks involved, but they put profit before the interests of people,” said D’Sa.

Councillor for the area Rick Crouch is angry about the spill.

“We contacted Transnet a year ago because there were complaints from numerous residents along the pipeline that there were strange noises and residents were worried that something like this would happen but Transnet assured us that this would never happen,” said Crouch.

He said that he would be “taking the fight to Transnet” over the issue and would ensure that those affected were properly compensated, and not in any danger from the diesel.

June Lombard, of Enviroserv, says that there were risks involved with diesel.

“While it becomes less flammable when it is in soil, it can contaminate the groundwater, depending on what lies beneath it.

“It is also an irritant to skin and the respiratory system. However, if it is outside it shouldn’t pose a grave danger to health,” said Lombard.

Lombard described the clean-up process.

“It can be cleaned up. First contractors will remove the contaminated soil and landfill the area.

“Next they would rotovate the soil and use fertiliser and water to encourage naturally occurring bacteria to grow, which will then eat up any hydro-carbons that are left in the soil,” she said.

Greenpeace said

: “Greenpeace Africa is monitoring the situation with expectations of an efficient and speedy clean-up of the affected areas.

“The negative impact of such spills on both people and the environment is immeasurable, and our thoughts are with all of those who have been affected by this massive diesel oil spill.”

Sunday Tribune