UPL Threatened with Criminal Probe After South African Pollution
(Bloomberg) -- UPL Ltd. illegally stored hazardous chemicals that were released into a residential area and a river system after its warehouse in the South African city of Durban was looted and set ablaze in July, the country’s environment department said.
The Indian producer of chemicals used in agriculture allegedly didn’t have the appropriate permits. The company and the owners of the land where the warehouse is situated, should be criminally investigated, the department said in a report released on Sunday.
“The National Directorate of Public Prosecutions will make a decision on whether or not to pursue criminal charges,” Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy told reporters on Sunday.
The blaze and pollution resulted in a significant fish die off, the closing of beaches and complaints from residents in the area about air pollution. Local activists alleged that chemicals that could cause long-term health problems were released.
UPL denied any wrongdoing. It said it was “disappointed” by the release of the report and wasn’t given sufficient time to respond.
“It fails to address what is at the heart of the issue -- namely, that the fires, which led to the pollution, were caused by rioters involved in the civil unrest,” the company said in a statement. “UPL along with many other businesses were left to fend for themselves in the face of unprecedented and unforeseeable levels of violence and criminality.”
UPL’s shares fell 2.2%, the most since Sept. 20 at 11:22 a.m. in Mumbai.
“The unlawful establishment and operation of the UPL facility created a point source of pollution in that particular location, close to a river system, a residential neighborhood, a sensitive protected area and the coastal environment,” the department said. “The environment in this area is considered to be significantly damaged.”
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