THE DEFENCE suggested to the court that the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant disaster, where five workers died, was a freak accident and Sol Plaatje Municipality was not responsible for any wrongdoing.
The workers – Clement Mokae, Joey Reid, Pule Bosman, Raymond Newman and Neville Kok – were overcome by hydrogen sulphide and drowned in sewage that flooded the pump station during a failed rescue attempt in November 2012.
Advocate Ferdi van Heerden, who is representing the municipality and former city engineer Boy Dhluwayo, pointed out during the inquest that continued in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Friday, that there had not been any prior incidents of injury or death of workers or equipment malfunctioning.
“In the time that the former senior controller, Garret Corns, as well as the former plant controller, Trevor Naidu, and his son Thurlow Naidu, who worked there for nine years, no one was affected or collapsed due to toxic gas poisoning.”
During cross-examination, Corns said that safety clothing, dust masks and breathing apparatus were provided to the workers, while training and refresher training were also provided for occupational health and fire fighting.
He added that the last safety inspection prior to the incident had been conducted by safety representatives in February 2012.
“We instructed the workers to pick up stray objects that the safety representatives had complained about. The plant was always clean. My seniors insisted that all health and safety regulations were complied with.”
Corns stated that it was standard procedure to close all the valves before clearing any blockages in the pumps.
“This is to ensure that the sludge remains in the samp, outside of the pump station. The pipe and taps were of good quality and sludge cannot leak into the pump station if the taps are closed. It never posed a danger from the time that I was employed at the plant.”
The inquest will continue on October 19.