Daily Maverick was not banned, like all…

The item, UPL bans the Daily Maverick a community meeting on the consequences of the fire at the Cornubia pesticide warehouse” (Daily MaverickJuly 26, 2022) refers.

The facts related in the article on the meeting between the experts of the UPL and the Interim Multiparty Forum (MSF) of July 23 are distorted and distorted. This is all the more regrettable as it was a successful and constructive engagement, which spent much time reviewing the significant progress made by UPL in restoring areas affected by the aftermath of the arson of his rented warehouse.

The facts are that it was never a “community meeting” and that Daily Maverick was not banned from the meeting. The meeting was jointly organized by the UPL and the interim MSF as an orientation meeting between the members of the MSF and the experts of the UPL. At the request of the interim MSF, there was a late agreement to invite the Joint Operations Committee, but it was never intended that the wider community or the media would be invited.

The correspondence quoted in the article, between the environmental lawyers of the UPL and the organizer of the provisional MSF, is unfortunately selective. Below is the full exchange of correspondence between the UPL environmental lawyer and the acting MSF manager after he requested that only Mr. [Tony] Carnie (and not all of the media) attends the engagement.

Environmental representative of the UPL [Norman Brauteseth]:

“Your anticipation of UPL’s response is correct. I fear that the meeting cannot take place if MSF insists that journalists be present. This is a meeting of the MSF interim committee, and we can talk about reporting on the meeting once it has taken place. What we will do with future meetings, and whether there should be a more open public meeting in due course, is the next step in our interactions.

Please confirm that this is agreed.

Cheers.”

The interim head of MSF, Mr. [Jeremy] Ridl replied:

Your answer is the expected one.

No media invitations until we have decided how future “public” meetings might be conducted.

All my wishes.”

It is therefore clear that Daily Maverick was not banned from a community meeting, as he claims. Instead, MSF and the UPL agreed to discuss their engagement with the media as part of their discussions regarding future “public” meetings.

It was a meeting between the interim MSF and the UPL (and Mr. Carnie is not a member of either the former or the latter). Indeed, there is a significant difference between being banned from a community/open event or meeting and not being invited to a closed, non-public meeting. It is dishonest to claim the first and the title of the article is totally misleading.

During the recent engagement with MSF ad interim, UPL South Africa’s team of independent experts presented the work carried out over the past 12 months since the attack on its rented warehouse. Presentations include the following points:

  • Air quality surveys: Continuous monitoring and testing of pollutants during and after the fire revealed that once the fire was extinguished, harmful pollutants were significantly lower, while airborne dust samples no longer contained arsenic. .
  • Water quality surveys: Ongoing tests on the estuary and marine environments show that metal levels of arsenic, manganese, copper and zinc are now below guideline levels set for the South African coast (including estuaries).

The focus remains on continuing to decontaminate the depot site, tributary and lower marsh, which in turn will allow for other significant improvements to the estuary environment.

With respect to the pollution control dam, analysis by independent laboratories showed low levels of residual pesticides present and low overall toxicity.

Scientific modelling, which examines a number of factors, suggests that this water can now be safely released into the system because, when combined with the water already present, it will reach such high levels of dilution that it will not harm the environment.

  • Geohydrological and soil surveys: Soil and sediment samples in the tributary and estuary show some residual organic and inorganic impacts; however, levels have decreased significantly from the initial sampling event. Some of the elevated levels are due to natural compounds not associated with the UPL fire.

Finally, the surface water samples also revealed that none of the organic or inorganic determinants exceeded the RISC screening levels adopted for water used for recreational purposes.

  • Human Health Investigations: Testing and monitoring to determine human health impacts are ongoing in the surrounding area to finalize the human health risk assessment report.

Encouragingly, it is apparent from both the testing of first responders and on-site staff, as well as the few people who attended the clinic set up by the UPL in the nearby community of Blackburn, that there are very few serious health impacts from fire or spillage.

It was agreed by all participants that the meeting was constructive and useful. It was also agreed that there will be discussions on the timing and form of future commitments, in particular with regard to the public health risk assessment process, and the need to finalize and implement the remediation action plan.

UPL South Africa is proud of the significant progress that has been made over the past year and remains committed to working with all stakeholders regarding the ongoing rehabilitation works that continue on and around the site of the ‘warehouse. DM/OBP

Japhet Ncube is spokesperson for UPL South Africa.

Footnote: Mr Brauteseth’s own email exchange above confirms that the media were excluded at the request of the UPL. MSF asked for the media to be present, but the UPL threatened to cancel the meeting if that happened. This is far from being a “mutual agreement”. -Tony Carnie

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