Information on south Durban’s Leaking Fuel Pipelines Withheld

Pietermaritzburg and Durban, 4 October 2004 - The Durban eThekwini Municipality and Shell/BP (Sapref) are conspiring by withholding key public information on the leaking fuel Shell/BP (Sapref) and Engen pipelines [1] that run underneath the community of south Durban.

In June 2001, a Sapref underground fuel pipeline leaked more than a million litres of petrol into the south Durban community environment. The petrol settled under residential homes, and people were evacuated from their homes to secure their health.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) [2] and groundWork [3] has called for the replacement of all pipelines, however Sapref and Engen have refused to acknowledge this approach, despite continual pipeline failures in the area. Since the first leak there have been numerous pipeline leaks. [4]

In 2002, the Durban eThekwini Municipality commissioned a pipeline integrity study. Both groundWork and SDCEA wanted to participate in this process, but the City and the Sapref required that a confidentiality agreement be signed before participation. groundWork and SDCEA refused to sign this agreement, because the study and its outcomes are clearly public information considering the pipelines have impacted and will continue to impact on the people of south Durban.

Over the last few months it has come to our knowledge that the report is completed and we have repeatedly asked the Durban eThekwini Municipality as well as Sapref to make public the report. Even the Department of Agriculture and Environment, Kwa Zulu-Natal has joined in this call. After repeated attempts to get the report, the City has blamed Sapref, and Sapref the City for not releasing the report:

30 September 2004: “we (Sapref) explained to you that the city had advised us they would release the report given that they had commissioned it.” (Margret Rowe, Communications Manager, Sapref).

13 September 2004: The city states that the report would be available after the 15 September 2004, and that one of the reasons why it was delayed was due to “an appeal by Sapref to accommodate them as their personnel dealing with this report are only available after the 15/09/04.” (Selva Mudaly, eThekwini Department of Health)

“This practice of withholding key information that should be informing the public on environmental injustices by the petro-chemical industry is becoming a common undemocratic practice in a democratic South Africa”, states Ardiel Soeker, groundWork Air Quality campaigner. Sasol and the Department of Labour withholding of information is a key example of this in the most recent case where Sasol operations have resulted in the death of over 10 workers at the Secunda plant on 1 September 2004.

Desmond D’Sa, Chairperson of the SDCEA has warned that, “the only conclusion that can be attained from the withholding of the information on these incidents, and specifically the pipeline report, is that the information it contains is highly damaging to the refineries and that the pipelines integrity is seriously in question. Furthermore, that these pipelines that are adjacent to community homes are presently placing the environment and communities at risk in the south Durban area.”

The SDCEA and groundWork, based on the various recorded leaks and spills, are maintaining their call for a complete replacement of all the refinery pipelines in the south Durban area, and for these pipelines to be clearly marked in order that the public are aware of the fact that fuel pipelines are traversing their community.

We urgently call for a joint meeting with Sapref and the Durban eThekwini Municipality to understand why they are been secretive about the report.


For more information call:

Desmond D’Sa: 031 461 1991, 031 468 9069, 083 982 6939

Ardiel Soeker: 021 762 5862, 082 940 8669

[1] There are fifteen fuel pipelines that travel underground between the Shell/BP and Engen oil refineries to the Durban Bay area. These pipelines extend for 12 kilometers through residential neighbourhoods in south Durban.

[2] SDCEA is a local environmental justice organisation based in south Durban that provides a collective voice for the various community organisations and residents in south Durban, who live adjacent to the petro-chemical industrial developments in the south Durban area.

[3] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working focusing on air pollution, waste and corporate abuse and works with community organisations living adjacent to petro-chemical facilities in south Durban, Sasolburg, Secunda and Cape Town.

[4] Pipeline leaks and other fuel spillages in South Durban 1998-2004

9 Jan 1998: Oil spill into Durban harbour from Sapref pipeline at berth 1- a 'ton' of oil spilt according to Sapref reported Southlands Sun Jan 16 1998.

19 June 1998 A "ton" of oil spilt according to SAPREF and spreads across Bluff from Reunion canal to harbour.

July 2001 SAPREF Pipeline petrol leak (1 million litres) discovered and reported by residents.

July 2001 Second leak on Sapref pipeline discovered. Residents demand pipeline be immediately inspected.

27 August 01 SAPREF pipeline leak reported Marine Fuel Oil (Lighthouse Rd, Bluff)

27 Sep 2001 Shell/BP refinery third pipe leak reported (Lighthouse road - marine fuel oil)

14 Oct 01 Island View - SAPREF spill of +/- 2 tons of Bunker fuel oil into Harbour Basin

25 Oct 01 ENGEN reports underground pipe leak resulting in 25,000 litres of diesel being lost

23 Nov01 Engen 1000 litres of Oil spilled into the Badulla Canal.

30 Dec 01 Sapref spilled 15 000 litres of marine fuel oil into Durban harbour.

22 Feb02 Engen refinery spills 3000 litres oil into Badulla canal.

April 02 Sapref discovers hole in pipeline - claims no product was lost.

9 July 02 Sapref diesel pipeline leak, Tara and Bibeford Roads.

21 Oct 02 Leak in Engen fuel storage tank on Island View.

23 Nov 02 1000 litres of oil spilt by Engen into the Stanvac Canal

29 Nov 02 Gas pipeline leak in Island View.

24 Dec 02 20 000 litre marine fuel oil spill and petrol spill into canal linking Engen petroleum in Durban Harbour.

Jan 03 Diesel spills into canal from Engen

6 Feb 03 Oil leak from Sapref into the Durban Harbour.

20 Mar 03 Major oil spillage from Engen into Stanvac Canal.

2 Oct 03 Sapref reports 75 000 diesel spill into canal. Diesel leaks into Harbour. Pipeline-related.

October 03 Sapref Pipeline Leak into Durban Harbour (Diesel)

28 Dec 03 Sapref Pipeline Leak into Durban Harbour (Marine Fuel Oil)

12 Jan 04 Sapref Pipeline Leak into Durban Harbour (Marine Fuel Oil)

23 May04 Sapref Marine Fuel Oil Leak outside Engen