Durban - The new multi-fuel pipeline from Durban to Gauteng has sparked health and safety concerns for South Durban residents after a diesel pipeline burst in a Hillcrest complex last week.
The new pipeline runs next to and through several properties, but residents said it had been some time since they last saw inspectors checking the meters installed on the path of the pipeline.
Transnet Freight Rail spokeswoman Saret Knoetze said she would answer questions on communities’ safety concerns today.
Adams Mission, KwaMakhutha and Umbumbulu homeowners, who had heard about the pipeline which burst in Greenvale Village, said when they asked Transnet if such an incident was possible – before the installation – there was no effective communication.
The pipeline runs from the Island View fuel storage complex in Durban past Clairwood Racecourse and the western side of the old Durban International Airport. It continues along South Coast Road towards Umbogintwini. Between Umbogintwini and eManzimtoti it turns towards Pietermaritzburg, passing through KwaMakhuta and Umbumbulu. From there it follows the existing Durban-Joburg pipeline before turning to Jameson Park, near Heidelberg.
Bobby Peek, director of groundWork, said initially the pipeline was to run parallel to the existing one that passed through Hillcrest.
“But Hillcrest residents did not want the new pipeline in their area, so they fought it and Transnet decided to move it. Now the residents of South Durban have the new pipeline next to their houses.”
Desmond D’sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said most residents of the affected areas could not afford alternative accommodation if they experienced a similar incident.
“If what happened in Hillcrest happened here, it would be devastating. Some of the residents have very small households that are close to one another – not like in Hillcrest where the gardens are big,” he said.
D’sa said some people fetched water from the valley through which the pipeline ran and, if there was a leak, they would not have water.
“We have raised this with the Department of Environmental Affairs at national and provincial level, but there was no positive response in favour of the residents,” he said.
He said there had been previous bursts and leaks which meant the new multi-fuel pipeline could also have a problem at some point.
“A few years ago, there was a petrol leak from the Shell and BP refinery in the Bluff and millions of litres of petrol leaked out under people’s homes; there was also a diesel leak on the Bluff next to Checkers and there have been leaks that went into the harbour,” he said.
Ntokozo Ngcobo of Adams Mission said she shifted her fence so the pipeline could run outside her house.
“I am concerned about the future as I have children who would be here longer than me. What if it bursts? Wouldn’t that affect their health?” she said.
Ngcobo said when they tried fighting the matter, they were told the land belonged to the Ingonyama Trust and all decisions were made between Transnet and the Trust.
Another Adams Mission resident, Wilfreda Mawela, said there had been no proper communication about the pipeline.
“We are just in the dark about this pipeline and we fear what might happen to us if the same thing that happened in Hillcrest happens here.” she said.