Poison delivered for water treatment
The Herald Online
An alert truck driver sent to deliver 19 tonnes of poisonous sodium cyanide [instead of aluminum sulfate] to Harare’s main waterworks averted disaster last Wednesday when he raised alarm just when he was about to offload the chemical.
The driver told workers at Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant that he suspected he was carrying a poisonous chemical.
The workers were preparing to offload the chemical into drums, which they would have used to “treat” water for consumption by Harare residents.
They were expecting to receive liquid aluminum sulphate water treatment chemical on the day. Sources said there was a mix up, resulting in the driver with the truck loaded with sodium cyanide being sent to deliver the chemical to the water treatment plant.
The workers at the plant informed town clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi after being alerted by the driver. Dr Mahachi directed that the consignment be returned to Bak Storage.
Sources close to the matter said over 19 tonnes of the deadly chemical were being delivered through a local delivery company (name supplied).
Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo yesterday said he had received a report on the matter from Dr Mahachi.
“I am still studying the report. I will only be able to give a full report when I have done the necessary investigations,” he said.
Dr Mahachi declined to comment and referred all questions to Minister Chombo.
“We have given a report to the minister,” he said.
City officials confirmed they had refused to take in the huge consignment, which was received through Bak Storage.
Last week, the city water supply situation was depressed with very few suburbs accessing water. City officials blamed the shortages on the heavy pollution of Lake Manyame.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website, cyanide is a rapidly acting, potentially deadly chemical that can exist in various forms, which can be a colourless gas, such as hydrogen cyanide (HCN) or cyanogen chloride (CNCl), or a crystal form such as sodium cyanide (NaCN) or potassium cyanide (KCN).
Hydrogen cyanide, under the name Zyklon B, is a fatal chemical that was once used as a genocidal agent by the Germans during World War II. In manufacturing, cyanide is used to make paper, textiles and plastics and is present in the chemicals used to develop photographs. Cyanide salts are used in metallurgy for electroplating, metal cleaning, and removing gold from its ore. Cyanide gas is used to exterminate pests and vermin in ships and buildings.
People can be exposed to cyanide through breathing air, drinking water, eating food, or touching soil that contains its particles. The extent of poisoning depends on the amount of cyanide a person is exposed to, route of exposure and length of exposure. Inhaling the gas causes the most harm but ingesting it can be toxic as well. It prevents the cells of the body from using oxygen and is more harmful to the heart and brain.
There are reports that some poachers use cyanide to kill elephants and rhinoceros. They put the chemicals in major drinking points and later come and remove horns when the animals eventually die.
Police investigate water poisoning
By Michael Chideme and Daniel Nemukuyu
The Herald Online
Police have opened investigations into last week’s delivery of a poisonous chemical to Harare’s main waterworks.The law enforcement agents sent a docket to the Attorney General’s Office for advice on how best to proceed with the matter.
The AG’s Office will determine the appropriate charges that those responsible for the boob would face.
A senior officer from the AG’s Office, Mr Morgan Dube, yesterday confirmed receiving the docket. He said there was a chain of people linked to the case and that the office required time to study the papers before deciding its next move.
“Yes, I confirm that the docket has reached our office and we are still going through it,”
said Mr Dube.
“We would want to find out who among the many names implicated is culpable and determine the appropriate charge in the circumstances.”
At least 19 tonnes of the deadly sodium cyanide were delivered to Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant on Wednesday last week. But the driver of the truck carrying the deadly chemical raised alarm before workers could off load it into drums in preparation for “treating” water.
The workers were expecting to receive liquid aluminium sulphate water treatment chemical on the day.
The opening of the docket comes as more details emerge on the case.
The truck carrying the sodium cyanide was clearly marked “poisonous” which observers said was enough to raise attention before it reached Morton Jaffray.
There are also counter-accusations between the clearing agent and the transporter.
Harare residents yesterday roundly condemned the delivery, while expressing fear of the disaster that could have ensued if the chemical was used.
Freight World cleared the sodium cyanide at Forbes Border Post, with LA Cargo eventually being tasked with transporting it to Morton Jaffray. Freight World managing director, Mr Felix Nyaruwanga yesterday blamed the mix-up on LA Cargo.
He said the company’s transport manager and the driver were to blame for delivering a wrong chemical to the city. Mr Nyaruwanga labelled the driver “stupid” for having driven a truck that was clearly marked “poisonous” to Morton Jaffray.
“The transporter mixed the paperwork. He put the proof of delivery indicating aluminum sulphate on top of the manifest written sodium cyanide,” he said.
“The transport manager did not practise due care.
“He did not check the proof of delivery which read aluminum sulphate, while the transport manifest read sodium cyanide.”
Asked how the chemical found its way to Morton Jaffray, Mr Nyaruwanga said as clearing agents they process everything electronically and never see the product.
“We only deal with documents,” he said.
“None of us see the product before it reaches the City of Harare.”
Mr Nyaruwanga said they had shown the police how the documents were swapped.
But LA Cargo official Mr Apronis Mupakaviri said the blame should be on Freight World who issued wrong delivery instructions to the driver.
“We sub-contracted the delivery to Astra and the driver was given delivery instructions from Freight World,” he said.
Mr Mupakaviri refused to entertain any further questions. Harare residents called for a thorough investigation into the matter.
Mr Callistas Dzamara said:
“It was going to be a disaster for Harare that would have affected the majority.”
Another resident Kelvin Kajao said the companies responsible should be investigated.
“They should be serious with their jobs because thousands of lives could have been lost,” he said.
Some of the residents expressed concern that the whole debacle could have been planned.
“From what the driver is saying, it shows that he actually knew that he was carrying a dangerous chemical,”
Ms Sarah Mazi said.
If sodium cyanide was used, millions of Harare residents could have been put at danger.
Sodium cyanide is a deadly chemical that can exist in various forms, which can be a colourless gas, such as hydrogen cyanide (HCN) or cyanogen chloride (CNCl), or a crystal form such as sodium cyanide (NaCN) or potassium cyanide (KCN). Hydrogen cyanide, under the name Zyklon B, was once used as a genocidal agent by the Germans during World War II. Poachers use the chemical to lace water points to easily kill animals such as elephants and rhinoceros.
Poison saga: Attorney General hints on murder
By Michael Chideme and Daniel Nemukuyu
The Herald Online
SUSPECTS found culpable in the delivery of toxic sodium cyanide to council for water treatment will be charged with conspiracy to commit murder, the Attorney-General’s Office said yesterday.
Mr Morgan Dube of the AG’s office said they had directed police to continue investigating the matter. The probe is targeting the transporters.
“After going through the papers, we found conspiracy to murder the people of Harare to be the appropriate charge under the circumstances.
“Those responsible for the transportation of the chemicals had the correct documents showing they were delivering water treatment chemicals, but they actually delivered poison.
“There is an element of misrepresentation on the transporters’ part. We have directed the police to proceed with the investigations in line with the preferred charge,” he said.
Council yesterday allayed fears that residents were in danger of being exposed to the poisonous chemical. Residents expressed outrage that the system allowed a dangerous chemical to be delivered to the water treatment plant.
This is not the first time a wrong chemical has been delivered there. Recently, a certain firm delivered salt instead of granular aluminium sulphate.
Acting Harare Mayor Mr Emmanuel Chiroto said the city adheres to a rigorous testing routine of chemicals applied in the treatment process.
“There was no chance that the chemical was going to be used. Chemicals are not like manure that can be used willy-nilly,” he said.
Clr Chiroto said residents should understand that the delivery was a mistake. He said the tests determine whether or not supplied chemicals either meet required standards or match the samples that the city requires.
“If there is a slight difference, we return to the supplier. We test every chemical before we use it. Residents should not panic. We cannot expose them to such mistakes.”
The acting mayor urged suppliers to cross check their deliveries to avoid causing alarm and despondency.
At least 19 tonnes of the poisonous sodium cyanide were erroneously delivered to Morton Jaffray plant. Freight World, the agent that cleared the chemical, and LA Cargo — the contracted transporter — are trading blame for the mix up.
The correct consignment was, however, delivered.
Freight World managing director Mr Felix Nyaruwanga said LA Cargo was to blame for the wrong delivery. But, LA Cargo official Mr Apronis Mupakaviri said blame should go to the clearing agent because it gave the driver wrong delivery instructions.
The sodium cyanide and aluminum sulphate were imported from India through CureChem on behalf of its customers. The consignment comprised four containers of each chemical. The chemicals entered Zimbabwe through Forbes Border Post.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website, cyanide is a rapidly acting, potentially deadly chemical that can exist in various forms. This can be a colourless gas, such as hydrogen cyanide (HCN) or cyanogen chloride (CNCl), or in crystal form such as sodium cyanide (NaCN) or potassium cyanide (KCN).
Hydrogen cyanide, under the name Zyklon B, is a fatal chemical that was once used as a genocidal agent by Germans during World War II.
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