Durban Silt Canal free of oil
27 April 2015
Following the vegetable oil spill from the burned-out Africa Sun Oil Refineries factory a month ago in Durban, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has been continuously monitoring the sites that were affected by the oil spill. To date there is currently no more oil to be recovered from the Silt Canal, and an estimated 663 430 litres of oil has been confirmed as recovered during the containment and clean-up operation.
It has also been noted that all visible oil on the waters was removed from the Edwin Swail weir, the Amanzimnyama Canal and the Silt Canal, including the Bayhead area.
Clean-up measures are currently taking place for the slipways, the contaminated rocks and canal walls.
The Amanzimnyama Canal remains boomed-off as a precautionary measure as the Africa Sun Oil site is still condoned-off by the Department of Labour (DOL). Once the site is cleared by DOL, work will resume for the cleaning-up procedures of the facility itself. Environmental processes such as asbestos and other waste disposal will also resume. A request has also been made to Africa Sun Oil to appoint a specialist to investigate the state of the groundwater in the affected area.
This follows the Directive in terms of Section 30(6) of the National Environment Management Act, which was issued to the directors of the company to adhere to the provisions of the Act and also direct the company/responsible persons to undertake measures within a specific time to fulfil their obligations in terms of the Act. In terms of the directive, Africa Sun Oil was requested to prevent the spread of the oil spill into the mangroves, the natural heritage site and the sandbanks.
DEA can confirm that these areas remain safe as the oil spill was contained and managed within the Silt Canal and the Bayhead area However, a few mangroves within the upper part of the Silt Canal and the Bayhead areas could not be saved as these areas are the gateway into the coastal waters. Our scientific and research teams have advised that the affected mangroves in these areas should remain untouched as any interference thereof will do more harm than good, the natural process will allow their clean-up over a period of time. No species mortalities have been reported thus far.
Scientific advice obtained from specialists after numerous sampling and testing informed us that the spilled vegetable oil is considered not toxic to marine species due to the fact that the oil was already processed and packaged ready to be distributed to retailers for human consumption. Notwithstanding the above, the marine specialist appointed by Africa Sun Oil has been requested to develop a long-term monitoring programme for the affected areas as a precautionary measure.
Weekly monitoring processes have been held by the Authorities (Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Water and Sanitation, KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, EThekwini Municipality, KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife), the polluter (Africa Sun Oil) as well as affected stakeholders (Transnet National Port Authority and CSIR). The Bluff Yacht Club has been opened up for boats to navigate after proper procedures were followed regarding the inspection of the boats and the walkways. Clean-up measures are expected to continue over the next few weeks whislt DEA reviews the Section 30 Incident Emergency Report.
DEA’s compliance, technical and scientific experts were continuously on standby and on alert monitoring the incident, with the assistance of the Department of Water and Sanitation, KZN Provincial Department, EThekwini Municpality,KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife and Transnet National Port Authority. The Polluter has confirmed that at the time of the incident the facility was storing an estimated amount of +/-580 – 700 000 litres of soya and sunflower oil. DEA can also confirm that the incident that took place on the 17th of April at the Sapref Refineries has not affected the harbour in any way as the spill was contained inland. DEA was duly alerted of the incident and containment and clean-up measures are continuing.
As per the Directive issued on 31 March 2015 in terms of Section 30 (5) to the Polluter, Africa Sun Oil (PTY) LTD, the Polluter was requested by DEA to:
- Provide DEA with a Section 30 (3) alert report with specific reference to the nature of the incident; any risks posed by the incident to public health, safety and property; the toxicity of substances and steps taken in order to avoid or minimise the effects of the incident on public health and the environment.
- Take full responsibility for the containment, mitigation and management of the current emergency incident and put maximum effort in ensuring that the following areas are protected; the Sandbanks, in particular the Central Sandbank, the Mangroves and the Natural Heritage Site.
- Place extra booms in the bay in order to protect and ensure that the current leaked oil does not reach the Mangroves, the Sandbanks and the Natural Heritage Site.
- Escalate the speed of the skimming process and ensure that adequate tankers are on site to assist in the timeous collection and transportation of skimmed oil off-site.
- Undertaking Immediate Monitoring Measures for Water Quality and Sediment Quality testing.
Currently the sensitive environmental areas such as the Mangroves, the Sandbanks and the Natural Heritage Site appear to be safe. However further environmental analysis will determine if there are any cumulative impacts emanating from the oil spill.
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