Read between the water lines. Read the article below on possible contaminated water.
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Petrol leak timebomb
It took seven months for the Department of Environmental Affairs and the eThekwini Municipality to be told about a potentially hazardous underground fuel leak at a petrol station in KwaMashu, next to its business district.
The leak is thought to be responsible for the phone lines of at least 1 450 people and businesses being out of order for a month.
The city says it was only told about the problem on Friday – four days after the Daily News first reported on the fuel leak – and started its own investigation.
The petrol station is located close to a bustling taxi rank, the metro police district headquarters, a clinic and the KwaMashu Mall.
Because Telkom’s underground pipes were full of petrol and fumes, it could not fix the lines for months, much to the frustration of users.
This week when the Daily News visited the area, the stench of petrol hung in the air. People have been exposed to toxic fumes, unaware of the possible danger of fire and contaminated water.
Total South Africa on Tuesday confirmed that it was the company responsible for the leak at its service station in Bhejane Road, which is off Malandela Road.
Spokeswoman, Nadia Vosloo, said emergency notifications had been submitted in September to the authorities, including the Department of Environmental Affairs. But the provincial department and the eThekwini Water Department denied they were told.
The petrol station manager, Zipho Thethwayo, confirmed the leak had been detected last year and said records showed that in December alone 1 500 litres of petrol were lost.
“Some independent people conducted water tests last year but we have not been told the results,” Thethwayo said. “We do not know if people are drinking water contaminated with fuel. But, I can tell you that water from one of the municipal pipes is leaking into our tanks.”
The first public indication of the fuel leak came two weeks ago when Telkom sent out an alert about damage to its underground infrastructure, disrupting the telecommunication service of more than 1 450 customers in the Emlanjeni, Emthini, Esibululungu and KwaMashu H and K Sections.
In a media statement, Theo Hess, Telkom’s managing executive for Network Field Services, said the fuel leak had caused “severe contamination” in the area.
“Telkom is deeply concerned about the environmental impact that this leak is having in the area as the affected site has been declared unsafe due to the volatile nature of the contamination,” he said.
Total’s Vosloo said they were notified of a “potential” problem in September last year and appointed consultants to do a stage one due diligence test – to assess potential risks of contamination. The tests had confirmed pollution of groundwater, she said.
Emergency notifications were submitted to the relevant authorities, she said, adding that a site assessment was also commissioned.
She claimed the Department of Environmental Affairs had been on site with both Telkom and Environmental Resources Management (ERM) – an environmental, health, safety and risk firm – to assess the way forward.
This, too, has been denied by the department.
When questioned about the risks and if an evacuation plan had been put in place, Vosloo said there were no suggestions of any heath or safety risks. But they were currently reviewing remediation options and that proposals were being drafted in this regard, she said.
She said they had appointed Rapid Spill Response (RSR) to start repair work and they were on site. The leak was a priority and was being treated in a serious light, she said.
Yesterday, clean-up operations were under way with ERM and RSR on duty. RSR were busy draining the manholes of the fuel and getting rid of the fumes.
Telkom had also managed to restore temporary lines to essential services such as the metro police offices and the clinic, by Monday afternoon. It said the manholes needed to ventilate before more work could be done.
Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman, Jeffrey Zikhali, said they were concerned about the fuel leak and it was a pity they had not been made aware of it earlier.
“We are concerned about the impact on the environment and human life,” Zikhali said. “Experts will be sent out to investigate. If it is found to be dangerous, every effort will be made to warn the community of the possible dangers. We are not taking this lightly.”
Neil McLeod, head of Water and Sanitation at the eThekwini Municipality, said the Pollution and Environmental Department was only told of the leak on Friday and no earlier requests had been made for the water to be tested in the area.
On Monday, municipal officials took samples of the Telkom sump. On Tuesday, tap water samples were collected and explosive limit readings taken of storm water drains and the sewerage system, McLeod said. The groundwater was also analysed.
He said further reports on the leak had also been requested from Total.