Coast KZN

11 Jun 2017

ISSUES AT STAKE: Accountability is the acid test

Dave Savides (Zululand Observer)

Environmental authorities ordered the hosing down of the spill to be stopped

Accidents do happen, but it is the delays in dealing with them that are of greatest concern

LAST Wednesday a tanker carrying tons of sulphuric acid sprung a leak as the result of a faulty valve.

The load had left Foskor en route to Namibia and the driver had detoured at the Eco-junction to fill up the diesel tank.

It was there the leaking valve was noticed and the decision – a perfectly good one at face value – was made to return to Foskor where the acid could be decanted and the valve repaired.

The concentrated acid streamed or trickled all the way down the eastbound carriageway of the John Ross Parkway, from the Eco-junction to Foskor, a distance of about 15km.

One assumes it had also dripped on the opposite side of the highway on the way out of town.

Be that as it may, the job of transferring the cargo was quickly and efficiently handled at Foskor and now the question of the acid-affected road remained.

To their credit, the tanker transport company accepted full responsibility and in no time a professional pollution control company was enlisted to treat the road surface.

This they did by pouring on it huge quantities of lime – the best alkaline agent to neutralise the acid.

Another assumption is that they ran out of lime, as it ended just beyond the Mondi traffic lights. Either that or the tanker was empty by then, which is unlikely.

Here’s where things go askew and questions need to be asked.

As one of the motorists who drove through a thick cloud of white dust cloud late that afternoon, I can attest to a few things.

One is that the left lane had not been cordoned off. Another is that there was no traffic control.

And visibility was down to about 20 metres as we drove with lights on and hazards in operation.

No alerts

There was no warning, no alert via social media, radio, SMS, signboards or points men.

Vehicles were simply allowed to drive through the polluted area – to what detriment, we are yet to find out.

The city’s Fire & Rescue Services were apparently not informed of the serious incident and it was only on the Friday – three days later – that the Department of Environmental Affairs was on scene, thanks to the ZO alerting the Richards Bay Clean Air Association.

The sad irony is that on the Thursday there had been a city disaster management meeting and the matter was not raised by any of the role players!

Did nobody in local or provincial government drive through the mess and ask what had happened?

After all, more than 25 000 cars drive daily on that stretch.

Where does the accountability lie? Who should have taken charge and done the notifications?

And in the bigger picture, our streets are always full of spillage from trucks that never seem to bother using tarpaulins to cover their products.

And what about the many who are seen working on roofs without harnesses?

And the fact it took over an hour to get an entrapped female extricated from a car wreck last week… while the public was allowed front row sets with no barrier tape or crowd control?

We have already exhausted the matter of red robot jumping.

The general apathy and/or lack of leadership and discipline in matters pertaining to health, safety and the environment are of grave concern.

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