05 January 2005

Heads may roll after another major oil leak

Residents of Merebank in Durban are calling for the prosecution of Engen refinery managers after another major oil leak into the Badulla Canal.

The latest leak of 6 000 litres of acrid-smelling heavy fuel oil happened on Friday.

The Mercury's archives record several Engen oil spills into the canal, including two spillages each of about 1 000 litres in 2001 and a further
3 000 litres in February 2002.

Ebrahim Shaik, a spokesperson for the Merebank Crisis Care community group, and Ivan Moses, of the Merebank Resident Association, said on Monday the spillages happened too often and that the company should be prosecuted.

Refinery spokesperson Willem Oosthuizen said the latest spill began on Thursday night but was detected only on Friday.

He blamed the spillage on "a combination of mechanical problems and human error".

The mechanical difficulties were ascribed to oil entering the storm water system because of problems with a heat exchange unit and the human error was blamed on the failure by refinery staff to close off a valve which prevents contaminated water flowing out of the refinery into Badulla Canal.

Badulla Road residents are frustrated over the refinery's apparent failure to respond to complaints about noise and other issues.

Rosalind Dayal said loud mechanical noises from the refinery lasted several hours on Friday.

Her husband, Jason, said he had also urged the refinery to repair a safety warning light on a tall chimney in May 2004 because he was concerned about the risk of jet aircraft crashing into it in bad weather while landing or taking off from the nearby airport.


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