Residents from Sobantu, Eastwood, Cinderella Park, Madiba and Pavilion informal settlements staged a protest outside Willowton Oil Mills offices on Monday, following a massive effluent spill into the Duzi River last month.
The residents, who handed over a memorandum to Willowton Oil Mills management, said the oil spill had caused great inconvenience and posed a serious health hazard.
Hundreds of fish and other species died after a an oil storage tank at Willowton Oil Mills in Ohrtmann Road collapsed and sent about 240 tons of effluent flooding the Baynespruit tributary of the Duzi River.
In their memorandum, the residents said they have been left in the dark.
“You have been busy in the river for two to three weeks taking samples. We as the community have only received letter instructing us to stay away from the river, which is a source of food,” the memorandum said.
Community representative Mzwa Goge said even councillors from the affected wards had not received a programme of action besides being instructed to tell residents to stay away from the river.
“There are people that have been directly affected by what has happened. We only read about the incident in newspapers and saw it on TV, yet it affects us on a daily basis,” he said.
“We want the company to come up with an action plan that will bring relief to these residents.”
A resident who asked to remain unnamed, who makes about R900 on a good day from selling fish that he catches using a cast net, said he was becoming increasingly desperate.
He hasn’t made a cent since the incident happened, and the only money now to feed his children comes from his mother’s social grant.
“I’ve been fishing since I was a little boy. I don’t have a job, so this is how I support my children. People around here buy from me. I catch nice sizes and the fish sell fast,” he said.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. All I can do is wait for them to tell us the water is clean. That’s why I came down here.”
Faye Brownell, of the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct), said according to talks at a meeting they had with the Water and Sanitation Department, the water is still highly contaminated.
“The officials have not had conclusive results,” Brownell said.
Thobeka Mafumbatha, Msunduzi Municipality’s spokesperson, said the clean-up at the river was ongoing.
“Upon completion of the clean-up, the watercourse and environs will need to be rehabilitated,” she said.
Mafumbatha said although the pH levels in the Duzi River normalised after a few days, the river had been heavily contaminated for many years. “E. coli monitoring in the city’s tributaries has always been a concern, with results indicating extreme levels of contamination.”
Willowton Oil was asked to respond, but no response was received by late on Monday.
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