Friday, 24 August, marked the fifth Acid spillage accident in a three month period in which foreign heavy motor vehicles, which transport hazardous chemicals, were involved.
At around 11:10 on a cold and misty Friday morning, the Mkhondo Fire and Rescue Unit received information regarding an accident involving a acid spillage truck carrying dangerous chemicals.
They responded immediately and closed off the N2, from the Paulpietersburg turn-off to the intersection to Moolman. Upon their arrival, they found the truck lying on its side with a huge area covered in raw sulphur.
The chemical needed to be cleared from the road immediately as it is highly flammable and cannot be handled without proper equipment. Arrangements were set in place and shortly after, staff members of Drizit Environmetal, from Ermelo arrived, geared in protective clothing and equipment.
They had to collect every grain of raw sulphur as this product cannot be rinsed away with water. On Saturday, at around 16:00, Mkhondo Fire and Rescue personnel gave permission to open the N2 for traffic again as the cleanup was completed. Strangely enough, all these accidents occurred within 100 metres of each other, all on the N2, heading to Pongola.
The first accident of this nature occurred on 18 May 2018 when a truck, transporting raw sulphur, also overturned on the abovementioned road. Again, on the following day, 19 May 2018, another foreign truck, transporting hazardous chemicals in large drums, lost its cargo, in close proximately to the previous day’s accident.
On 31 May, at around 17:00, Emergency personnel of the Mkhondo Fire and Rescue Unit responded to an accident in which a heavy motor vehicle, carrying sulphuric acid, overturned on the Pongola Road. The driver involved in this accident claimed that the truck started to slip on the wet surface of the road, he lost control of the truck and then it overturned.
Again, on Thursday, 9 August, at around 09:15, two foreign trucks, transporting chemicals collided with each other. The two trucks were heading in the same direction when the driver of the second truck bumped into the one in front of him as he apparently did not decelerate. He swerved out of the road, lost control and ended up in a nearby plantation. Accidents such as these are causing severe damage to the road surface.
These chemicals cannot be removed by washing it away with water and specialised personnel are needed to attend to an intensive cleanup of the whole area. Some of these hazardous chemicals react with water, which in turn can cause it to ignite and cause even more damage.
Sulphuric acid will slowly eat away at the tar surface of a road and when it comes into contact with a water stream or even the soil next to the road, it will contaminate it and will cause severe environmental damage. These cleanups can be a costly affair, not to mention the damage of infrastructure, which is also very expensive to repair and can take long periods of time. Why this specific area on the Pongola Road is such a dangerous spot for these accidents to happen, is a question that remains unanswered.
We can only hope that this string of five accidents were the last of its kind! Maybe a road sign can be erected, warning truck drivers to slow down, because this is a high accident zone!