UPL not properly authorised to operate Cornubia factory, says DFFE investigation

Forestry, Fisheries And Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said that the aftermath of the UPL arson attack would go down in history as one of South Africa’s most serious environmental catastrophes.

FILE: The UPL chemical plant in Durban was torched in the riots and looting that hit the area in July. Picture: @DA_KZN/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - A preliminary investigation by the Forestry, Fisheries And Environment Department has found that chemical giant United Phosphorus Limited was not properly authorised to operate its Cornubia chemical factory, which was set alight during the anarchy that rocked South Africa in July.

Minister Barbara Creecy has released the damning report on the Durban environmental disaster probe.

The investigation found that UPL, which stored various types of chemicals, was operating unlawfully after it failed to obtain several mandatory approvals from government regulators. It also failed to obtain a critical risk assessment and planning permissions from the eThekwini Metro.

Creecy said that the aftermath of the UPL arson attack would go down in history as one of South Africa’s most serious environmental catastrophes.

“They did not do the risk assessment and because they were not known to be a major hazard institution, when the fire broke out, firemen were not aware of what was stored in the warehouse. They used water to douse the flames, [which] flowed into the Umhlanga tributary and from there into the estuary and that entire ecosystem is dead,” Creecy said.

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