The ecological disaster - one of the worst of its kind to have happened in the province - began on Tuesday when about 1600 cubic metres (1.6 million litres) of fatty oils and caustic soda poured out of the Pietermaritzburg factory into the Msundusi River, just below the N3. The toxic mix soon reached as far as Cato Ridge and the Umgeni River, which flows into Inanda Dam.
Caustic soda combined with fatty oils becomes soapy, making a river clean-up exceptionally difficult.
One of South Africa’s leading water specialists, Dr Anthony Turton from the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of Free State, said if the pollution had spread all the way down to Inanda Dam, the clean-up could take several years.
Another leading environmental consultant and river specialist, Pandora Long agreed. She said she doubted that Willowton and government authorities would be able to address the massive pollution without significant help.