airboat to access industrial site

 
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published: 9 October 2015
by: Chris Grosch

Airboat Afrika is working to protect the environment. In the last days of September, Foskor in Richards Bay had to commission an environmental study on one of the pans adjacent to their production site.

Wetlands near Industry

Wetlands near Industry

As a producer of sulfuric acid, concentrated phosphoric acid and fertilizers, Foskor deals with highly toxic materials. Safety & Health measures on site are strict, and it took the better part of a day to go through the induction and medical procedures prior to operations.
The Upper Pan is situated just outside the fenced boundary, but receives water run-off from the main site. A study was commissioned to collect water, soil and sludge samples. The pan is entirely surrounded by dense vegetation, and low water levels at the end of the dry season have created wide mudflats, impassable to conventional vehicles.

Upper Pan boardwalk

Upper Pan boardwalk

Cutting a path

Cutting a path

A small hovercraft used in previous years struggled with the dense overgrowth. In fact, only the more versatile airboat has the capacity to reach the open water. A launch site had to be selected, accessible from one of the surrounding dirt roads, which provided the shortest path through the high reeds to the open water. A local service was called in to cut a partial path through the reeds, and examine for any nesting sites, tree trunks, boulders or other hazards in the line of approach.
The next morning saw the launch of the airboat. For safety reasons, we decided to launch the airboat with only one pilot, the rest of crew, passengers and equipment to be loaded at the boardwalk crossing the wetlands on the opposite bank.

Running the reeds

Running the reeds

A day in the office

A day in the office

In 5 different spots on the pan, water, soil and sludge samples were taken. Water acidity and conductivity were also tested. Samples were immediately preserved in appropriate containers and carefully labeled. The samples will be sent to an independent lab in the UK for testing, before a final report will be issued.
Though no amphibians or fish were observed, various species of birds, ducks and even a fish eagle could be seen.

Men at work

Men at work

Out of the reeds

Out of the reeds

South Africa’s rich mineral resources and agriculture are an important creator of work and foreign revenue, yet despite recent legislative changes, the strain on our environmental health remains high. Continuous monitoring, testing, control and remedy are crucial to the long-term survival and well being of our life space.

Respect for our environment is crucial and should be a daily concern to everyone. Simple things like ‘No Littering’ to support for programmes like Metsi a Me on our doorstep are vital.

Literally so.