Willowton Group Statement on Incident occurring 13th August 2019
Willowton Group has been in operation since 1970 and is one of Africa’s leading edible oil processors. An unforeseen incident took place at our Pietermaritzburg vegetable oil manufacturing facility on the afternoon of the 13th August 2019. A vegetable oil storage tank collapsed and, in the process, brought down an adjacent tank. Two other tanks were slightly damaged. One contained sunflower oil and the other diluted caustic soda which is used in the manufacture of laundry soap.
The incident is under investigation to understand the cause of the collapse. Our main focus is to fully ascertain the environmental impact and to implement the containment and effect the necessary rehabilitation required.
Emergency response teams, SpillTech and Drizit, arrived on-site immediately after the incident and have been working within the impacted area on containment and remediation, with their core focus being to secure the external environment. The teams were able to contain majority of the spill within our own facility. Unfortunately, some product managed to enter the Baynespruit tributary and then into the Duzi river.
All the relevant authorities were immediately contacted, including the Departments of Water and Environmental Affairs, and Msunduzi Municipality and are currently being actively engaged. This process is ongoing and will continue until the rehabilitation is completed and the authorities are satisfied. The independent professional team appointed to assist with dealing with the incident includes a structural engineer, an environmental specialist, a hydrologist and a river health specialist, namely Dr Mark Graham.
As a company we are concerned and committed to dealing with the incident and are proactively engaged with all parties to expeditiously resolve this. In addition to the environmental impacts, any impacts to water users along the Baynesdrift Tributary and Duzi River will be reported and will be investigated.
We are also making available water tankers and bottled water to affected parties as a precautionary measure.
A full report and assessment will be made to all the relevant Departments that we are working with once the investigation has been completed. As a community-based business that has been operating within the Pietermaritzburg area since 1970, we are fully committed to working with the authorities and community to ensure the necessary remediation is undertaken.
Willowton deeply regret the occurrence and are doing everything possible to contain and remediate the affected environment.