South Africa: MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube Calls for Investigation in Air Pollution and Environmental Damage

press release

EDTEA MEC Dube-Ncube gravely concerned about the spike in air pollution and environmental damage

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube has called for a speedy investigation into the two fire incidents that rocked the province over the weekend, saying such incidents cause huge harm to the environment and pose acute threats to public health.

A fire broke out on Saturday evening at a Cato Ridge chemical firm, Guernica Chemicals, formerly known as Thor-Chemicals. The operating company on the site is Metallica Chemicals.

Also, another huge fire broke out at the New England Landfill Site owned Msunduzi Municipality in Pietermaritzburg.

Dube-Ncube has condemned these incidents which have huge detrimental effects on the environment.

"First, we wish to welcome the criminal investigation that is currently underway at the Cato Ridge company. It's very concerning. Just a couple of weeks back we were dealing with some oil spillage into our water resources and a fire from a chemical company in the South Durban Basin. If these incidents are man-made we shall deal decisively with such transgressions," she said.

"We will also enforce the recommendations of the recent Climate Change Summit. It's the prevalence of these incidents that concerns us most. Surely, somebody somewhere is dropping the ball, deliberately so, might I add. The issues of safety and environmental safety are non-negotiable and every care should be taken to ensure safety first, minimise damage and mitigate damage to the environment. We condemn these incidents. We will await a full report detailing what led to the incident," she said.

The scene has been secured as forensic investigations are about to start. The fire department remains on the scene due to the nature of inflammable chemicals at the site. Incident briefing sessions are being held every few hours by a joint team of fire fighters, police, company reps, environmental inspectors, safety officers and health officials. Post-fire operations are continuing.

Meanwhile, Dube-Ncube has also expressed her discontentment at the fire incident at Msunduzi Municipality's New England Landfill Site which burned on Sunday.

The department's environmental unit inspected the site on Monday morning and will soon submit a report to the MEC to determine the next cause of action.

The department can reveal that the management of this landfill site has deteriorated over the years. Among other things, this has led to problems like occasional fires, killings amongst the recyclers who dwell on site and failures by the municipality to continuously compact the waste. According to the licence, no recyclers are allowed on site.

EDTEA has previously issued the municipality with a Pre-Compliance Notice and later a Compliance Notice, directing them to take steps to correct the situation. The notices seemed work partially but the problems persists.

According to National Environmental Management Act, the next step should criminal enforcement. Engagement are continuing with the municipality as there is a chance these can be resolved.

Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs

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