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The announcement, made in association with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Transnet National Ports Authority (TPNA), and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), comes after thousands of nurdles washed up along the city’s beaches following a storm two months ago.
Captain Hopewell Mkhize, SAMSA’s principal officer based in Durban, said authorities have been working tirelessly around the clock to retrieve a total of 2 000 bags that were carrying plastic polyethylene nurdles lost from containers following the storm in October.
“The storm wreaked havoc causing several deaths in and around the province, as well as extensive damage. It further caused destruction at the Durban harbour when several ships lost their moorings, and four shipping containers fell off vessels. A Joint Operations Committee (JOC), attended by SAMSA, DEA and TNPA has met regularly reporting on the progress of the clean-up. While the Durban Harbour has been declared safe and clean, the authorities are still monitoring the area. So far at least 3,5 tons of nurdles have been recovered,” Mkhize said.
The clean-up teams have worked around the clock to ensure that the Durban beaches were ready for the festive season.
The JOC confirmed this week clean- up operations will now be concentrated on the north coast as heavy deposits of nurdles were spotted on the Northern lagoon banks.
The MSC has appointed local firm Drizit Environmental who have been storing the nurdles at their depot in Jacobs, Durban, and were using several clean-up teams round the clock.
The clean-up has moved from the Durban beaches, towards the North Coast beaches, namely Clarke Bay, Granny’s Pool (second clean-up), Shaka’s Rock, Thomsons Beach, Mvoti beach, Villa Royale beach, and Ballito main beach.
Areas which have also been prioritised are the Tugela Mouth Lagoon and the Hatchery Lagoon.
SAMSA’s principal officer based in Durban Captain Hopewell Mkhize confirmed that the clean up process was progressing well.
“Drizit has assured us that they will continue in their efforts to ensure that the critical beaches are treated as priority, and that the beaches are declared safe for use before December 10, 2017.”
Mkhize said the clean-up process will be ongoing. Some areas have been recharged with nurdles and having to be cleaned again. “The situation will be monitored for now before the decision to stop is made.”
Additional resources and personnel provided by DEA have been brought to sites, and are assisting to speed up the clean-up operations. During the clean- up operations different types of plastics, not emanating from the containers, were also spotted.
Mkhize said an ROV Survey was completed to scan the bottom of harbour area to ensure that none of the nurdles bags were trapped underneath. The investigation found nothing.
A model study was further undertaken looking at the currents, the tides, and the wind to confirm the possible places where the bags could have gone. The clean-up teams were busy with the targeted areas and also focusing on the projections of the model results.
SAMSA was overall pleased with the clean-up process and welcomed the efforts by the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working for the Coast program to clean up the shorelines.
The support from volunteer groups who have assisted with the clean-up efforts, and the public at large has been greatly appreciated. There have been reports received of nurdles washing up on beaches in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. These reports are of great concern and are being addressed, the DEA said.