[DEBATE] : (Fwd) More on (dead) fishy Durban coverup
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon Feb 18 13:09:29 GMT 2008
(Lots of shit came in to my 'hood and, via dead fish, down to the yacht
club in the harbour: "17 million litres of sewage water flowed out of
the blocked pipe in Seaview during the repair process.")
City refuses to release second probe
Sewage killed fish, says report
February 18, 2008 Edition 1
Independent scientists have concluded that a sewage leak into the
Umhlatuzana River was the main cause of the recent fish kills in Durban
The findings by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR) follow repeated denials by municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe that
raw sewage spills were the primary cause of the massive die-off of fish
and other marine life just after Christmas Day.
The CSIR report, compiled by researchers Steven Weerts and Shamilla
Pillay on behalf of the National Ports Authority, contradicts
Sutcliffe's assertion that a combination of rainfall, industrial
spillages and other factors played a role in the death of thousands of
fish in Durban Harbour from December 26 to December 27.
The city is keeping a tight lid on a second report by scientists Prof
Tickey Forbes and Nicolette Demetriades, from the consultancy group
Marine and Estuarine Research.
This report, expected to corroborate the CSIR findings, was handed to
the city last month, but deputy health head Siva Chetty has refused to
release it to The Mercury, despite repeated requests.
Chetty was appointed by Sutcliffe to deal with all media queries on the
fish kill, and his refusal to release the report has fuelled suspicions
of a city hall cover-up or a reluctance to acknowledge sewage management
The CSIR scientists do not pinpoint the source of the sewage spillage,
but state that a significant volume of sewage was reported lost from the
Queensburgh sewage works in December, and that the decomposition of
sewage led to severe de-oxygenation of the water and the inability of
fish to breathe.
They also did water toxicity tests at several points in the harbour and
the highest toxicity readings were found at the mouth of the Umhlatuzana
River, which empties into the harbour.
"Therefore, the discharge of sewage into the bay is highly likely to
have been the primary cause of the fish kill event in late December,"
There were, in fact, two fish kills in the harbour in December. The CSIR
team said the first event, which began on December 21, was most likely
owing to an accidental or illegal discharge of effluent into the
Lavender Creek stormwater drains near Wilson's Wharf.
The CSIR team did not collect water samples for anaylsis during the
first fish kill, and were unable to say whether the effluent leaking
into the wharf area was toxic.
However, with the second more serious and widespread fish kill, they
ruled out the possibility that heavy rainfall had flushed a variety of
pollutants into the bay since no significant rain was recorded for two
They noted that there was also a "known spill of waste wash water from
the Ijuba Brewery, and a possible overflow from the Hullett (Sugar)
wastewater dam" but they had since ruled out these sources as a possible
They also ruled out a third possibility of a widespread algal bloom
de-oxygenating the harbour water.
"It is concluded that this kill was a result of the sewage discharge
into the Umhlatuzana River that eventually flowed into the harbour," he
Sutcliffe, however, denied there was an attempt to suppress information.
"There is certainly no cover-up. All of these reports will get into the
The city's approach was to gather all the available evidence about the
fish kill and waste management problems in the city from independent
scientists and the city's own experts and officials.
Once all this evidence was consolidated, it would be analysed and
interpreted so that the city could draw up a set of recommendations to
deal with problem areas.
"So I am not going to respond to each report which comes out, in a
reactive fashion. Otherwise it becomes a situation of 'another report -
"We would rather sit down and reach conclusions after analysis, and we
will ask ourselves whether there are certain things which we can do better."
Sutcliffe remarked that although he had not seen the CSIR report yet, he
would be surprised to hear emphatic suggestions about a single cause.
q Meanwhile, Durban water and waste department head Neil Macleod has
sent The Mercury a detailed response to a series of recent articles on
the health status of Durban's major rivers.
While he disputed the accuracy of some aspects of the reports, Macleod
acknowledged that river pollution problems "undeniably existed" and he
welcomed the role of the media in drawing attention to these issues. His
responses will be published later this week.
City sues over blocked sewer
February 18, 2008 Edition 1
THE eThekwini Municipality is suing a Durban waste disposal company for
nearly R1.4 million for allegedly dumping waste in a council pipeline,
which caused sewage pollution in the Umhlatuzana River.
Neil Macleod, the head of the council's water and sanitation department,
said at the weekend that summons had been served on Commercial Waste
Services in Seaview, seeking damages of R1 392 000.
The claim was a result of a council sewer line being blocked with a waxy
substance "to such an extent that a section of the sewer main had to be
relaid and sewerage discharged to the (Umhlatuzana) river for a period".
Commercial Waste Services chief executive Dan Naidoo denied the
allegations and accused Macleod of "barking up the wrong tree in an
attempt to find a scapegoat for recent fish kills in Durban harbour".
Macleod said some of the recurring sewer blockages in the city were the
result of industry and smaller commercial companies dumping solid or
hazardous waste into sewers and storm water drains.
It was not clear whether the city was suing Naidoo's company for a
prolonged blockage, which happened in March last year, or for a blockage
of the same line in January.
However, according to a report from the city's waste water network
chief, P B Davis, the sewer became blocked with a waxy substance in
March last year and waste water staff were unable to clear it with
conventional jetting equipment. Eventually a hole was cut in the blocked
line, directly above the Umhlatuzana River, to prevent sewage backing up
and flooding the premises of a nearby shoe factory.
As a result, sewage was also diverted into a storm water drain from
March to August 2007.
The Davis report suggests that about 17 million litres of sewage water
flowed out of the blocked pipe in Seaview during the repair process.
His report also referred to a separate blockage at a measuring flume in
the Queensburgh industrial area around December 24 last year.
"This was caused by a long cable that had found its way into the sewer,
through an act of vandalism. It is estimated that the sewer overflowed
for about five days, and it was attended to as soon as it was reported,
and cleared the same day."
Naidoo said yesterday that he had not received a summons.
"This is news to me, but it seems to me that Mike Sutcliffe and Neil
Macleod are looking for a scapegoat. I run a professional undertaking
and my company is open to scrutiny from any party. I welcome this legal
challenge from the eThekwini Muncipality because I have nothing to hide
and there is no evidence whatsoever pointing to us blocking that sewer."
Naidoo said his company dealt mainly with solid wastes and waste oils,
and that he had a letter from eThekwini officials exonerating his
company from blocking the sewer.
"I do not deal in waste wax or resinous material and it seems to me that
we are being blamed simply because we are in the waste industry," he said.
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