I refer to the recent article in FTW regarding the spill on the N3 (April 15, 2005) and wish to set the record straight on certain issues.
We uplifted a load of HCL, not aluminum sulphate, at Sasolburg on March 28, 2005 at about 16:00. The load was en route to Durban. The product is not highly flammable but highly corrosive.
Our fully hazchem trained driver, Stanley, who complies with all road traffic act and OHSact legislation, was in full control of the tanker which he pulled.
The truck and tanker are roadworthy and comply with all rules, regulations and legislation for the transport of hazardous chemicals. No fine was therefore imposed.
The tanker started leaking on top of one of the 11,500 litre tanks. The leak was not due to a cracked tank but due to a rubber failure. The hole, as big as a R2 coin, caused the spillage. The driver saw the leak and stopped the truck on the N3 South near Pietermaritzburg, at about 10:00. Because of the wet and rainy conditions, the HCL caused a smoke cloud when it reacted with the water. The driver disembarked the truck from the trailer to prevent corrosive reaction if the HCL came into contact with the metal parts of the truck.
The driver immediately contacted the office although there was no immediate danger.
Drizit, hazchem specialists, were at the scene to assist with the decanting as well as the clean up. At the most 100 litres of HCL was wasted on the ground over nine hours. The spilled HCL was contained and did not reach the storm water drains. The ground was neutralised with soda ash. The pieces of grass which were contaminated were removed. The tar was damaged and will be repaired as part of a maintenance process.
I was in contact throughout the day with the emergency services on the scene. We regret the incident but believe no permanent harm was done to the environment. We have a continuous maintenance programme in place and will, as part of this programme, give special attention to the HCL tankers. This was a totally unforeseen incident but will get our professional attention.
general manager, JA Transport.