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The spill was discovered on Thursday morning when cows died after drinking from a stream near a site outside Newcastle, spokesman Dumisani Thabethe said.
Residents appeared to have escaped harm so far. "There is no one who has been reported to have been affected by the spillage," he said.
Thabethe said: "We are told that about 11 cows have died, but by late evening it was 50, but I am not too sure about the accuracy of the figures.
"Our concern is people getting water directly from the river."
As a precaution, uThukela Water broadcast a warning on the Newcastle community radio station on Thursday. The spill might have come from a site where synthetic rubber was being manufactured, but this was still being investigated, Thabethe said.
The Ngagane river was flushed with water from the Ntshingwayo dam on Thursday in an attempt to dilute the chemical content.
Water was being released from the dam at 16,000 litres per second.
Thabethe said HTH, chlorine used in domestic swimming pools, was poured into the river before it was flushed. "They were hoping to stimulate a chemical reaction between the HTH and the cyanide."
The spill was discovered this morning when cows drinking water from a stream running from the Karbochem site, died within moments of taking a few sips.
Concern for the environment is a vital element in Karbochem's product development and research activities. The company is highly sensitive to the need for safety measures, environmental controls and the efficient use of resources in all its manufacturing operations. The most advanced technology available has been installed to protect the environment against hazardous wastes and harmful effluents. At both the company's plants, waste water is environmentally treated to such a standard that it can be returned to the regional distribution system. The state-of-the art solution polymerisation plant at Newcastle is designed to use only environmentally friendly aliphatic solvents in its elastomer production process. It is Karbochem policy to promote the principles and practices of responsible care by sharing experiences and offering assistance to others who produce, handle, use, transport or dispose of chemicals and related products.
A Newcastle company says it will compensate the owners of cattle which died of cyanide poisoning following pollution of the town’s Ngagane River last week. The Water Affairs and Forestry Department said a formal investigation would be launched into the incident following the deaths of 15 cattle. Jaco Prinsloo, spokesman for synthetic rubber manufacturer Karbochem, said those who had lost cattle as a result of the poisoning would be compensated. It was the first time in 30 years of operation that such an incident had occurred, he said.