Durban harbour water recovering from chemical spill

Water quality in Durban’s harbour has started to improve following the release of chemicals from a blazing chemical storage depot, a senior Water Affairs and Forestry Department official said on Friday.

Departmental spokesperson Raj Philips said monitoring of the water in the area surrounding the Island View Storage (IVS) depot has revealed that the colour of the water has started to improve.

The number of dead fish being recovered from the area around the depot has not increased significantly.
On Thursday, he said that departmental officials had recovered about 120 dead fish from the harbour waters.

The chemicals were released into the harbour for three hours on Tuesday night during the blaze.

Surrounding the group of tanks that went up in a blaze is a lined wall around the tanks designed to catch all fluid that leaks from it. Known as a bund wall, the sealed walls should be able to hold the amount of liquid in the tanks.

Philips said the decision to release the cocktail of chemicals from the bund wall into the harbour had been taken by the joint operational command centre set up to deal with the blaze. There has been no indication that the chemicals have accumulated or spread to other parts of the harbour.

When asked about the release of chemicals, IVS MD Kobus Ehlers said on Thursday afternoon: “I cannot comment on that at this stage. As reported that is still part of the investigation.”

Water quality

Philips said that IVS had been informed of the department’s requirements to monitor water quality in the harbour. “They must test the water for every single chemical that was in the tanks,” he said.

He said monitoring is being stepped up and the company is duty bound to notify anyone caught fishing in the area of the depot of the dangers.

Philips urged anyone in other parts of the harbour who suspect that something is amiss—for example, dead fish or water discolouration—to contact him on Tel: 082 808 9906.

One employee is believed to have died in the blaze, although police and IVS management are simply saying that the 22-year-old is unaccounted for.

According to police spokesperson Superintendent Vincent Mdunge, three employees were working on one of the tanks at about 7pm on Tuesday when the blaze started.

He said that three of the two men managed to escape to safety. It is not clear what the men were doing on the tank or what caused the blaze.—Sapa

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