Concern rises as toxic chemicals get dumped in the ocean | Infrastructure news

Marine life could be under threat following reports of toxic chemicals being dumped at the St Helena Bay.

It has been reported by the SA Maritime Authority (SAMSA) that approximately 1 500 tons of chemicals on the NS Qingdao bulk carrier are being dumped into the ocean about 250km off St Helena Bay on an operation set to end in March.

According to SAMSA and the NS Qingdao’s cargo, the unnamed chemicals pose no immediate threat to neither the marine environment nor to humans.

SAMSA revealed that an emergency dumping permit had been obtained from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment to dump the reacting cargo at sea.

Extinction rebellion spokesperson Michael Wolf expressed concern stating that; “Dumping toxic chemicals into the ocean will have dire consequences for people in the immediate area, but also for the world at large, since our seas are all connected.”

The ship was evacuated in October 2021 from the Port of Durban to St Helena Bay, following the discovery of toxic fumes in the atmosphere which formed as a chemical reaction after rainfall.

“The South African Maritime Authority are aware of a vessel releasing toxic fumes in St. Helena Bay. The geared bulk carrier NS Qingdao suffered a chemical reaction after its cargo came into contact with rain water while discharging the cargo in the port of Durban. Concentrated toxic fumes were released into the atmosphere and as a result, the Transnet National Port Authority in consultation with SAMSA, DFFE and other stakeholders decided to evacuate the vessel from the port so that the hatches can be ventilated offshore,” SAMSA said.

“The cargo will be discharged into skips, chemically neutralised and landed ashore at an approved dumping site in a safe and controlled manner. The vessel poses no immediate threat to the marine environment and humans,” SAMSA added.

Liziwe McDaid, The Green Connection’s strategic leader expressed her disappointment after discovering that the ship had been given the go ahead to dumping of toxic waste off the West Coast.

She says that although she understands the urgency of the matter, it should have been the departments priority to consult widely as the law allows to consult parties with interest.

“We would question why the ocean is being used for toxic waste dumping when we should be protecting our oceans. We are very uncomfortable with the ’out of sight, out of mind’ approach, and would request transparency and that the minister engage with interested parties.”

In an interview with CapeTalk, SAMSA chief operations officer Vernon Keller said, “The reason we’re doing it in the Bay is because it is far from a port and any residential areas, and at sea. The wind blows mostly offshore, so we can do this in a safe manner when it comes to toxic things.”

He further cleared the misconception of cargo is a lot of chemicals, stating that there are components of chemicals, but the cargo is mainly fertiliser.

In conclusion, the area is said to still be safe for marine life and people who live close to the area as the depth of the dumping area is evaluated at 3000 meters and normally it is 2000 meters.

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