Coast KZN

02 Nov 2016

Umkomaas beach foams after mill spill

Kerushan Pillay (The Mercury)

A boat owner attempts to pull his ski-boat out of the foam after waves of it washed up on the beach at Umkomaas yesterday.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance is calling for a public hearing where pulp and paper company Sappi would have to account for waste it allegedly dumped causing Umkomaas beach to foam up yesterday.

Waves of foam three to four metres high washed up on the beach yesterday morning, witnesses said.

A witness and the Environmental Alliance lay the blame at the nearby Sappi-Saiccor mill.

Craig Daniel, the environmental manager for SappiSaiccor Umkomaas, declined to comment last night, but referred to a company statement that said a leak let out a “small amount of detergent from the Sappi-Saiccor mill”.

“There are controls in place to prevent this from happening. However, it appears that a leak developed in the collection weir resulting in the release,” the company said.

A witness and the alliance said the mill had illegally dumped a substance that “looked like detergent” out of a pipe which flows into the Umkomaas river. The detergent, they said, ended up on the beach in the low tide.

“I was here the whole morning. I noticed the sea foaming up at about 10am,” the witness said.

“A substance got released into the water, I think it was a chemical used in a bleaching plant.”

The witness said it was “not as foamy” by yesterday afternoon.

The alliance’s spokesman Desmond D’sa said: “We’re calling for a public hearing into this. Sappi needs to be held accountable.

“It is a serious issue. It (the Umkomaas) is a highly polluted river because of waste. “Serious action needs to be taken.”

He said the foam would have been a serious danger to marine life.

“It’s like a blanket so fish can’t breathe oxygen – it kills the oxygen supply.”