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Blasts at site are ‘normal’

MACASSAR – Management of Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) urges Helderbergers not to be alarmed by the possible sight of burning flames and clouds of smoke billowing in the vicinity of the Somerset West depot.

The local ammunitions manufacturer operates its burning grounds, a facility used for the destruction of explosive waste materials in a controlled manner, at least twice a week.

The forewarning comes from Lyndon Metcalf, RDM’s executive manager for operational risk management, after a DistrictMail reader reported an apparent explosion in the area on Tuesday morning (12 May).

The reader claimed to see a huge flash followed by a series of flames sending plumes of smoke into the air near the RDM site while walking along the promenade in Beach Road, Strand, around 08:30.

In RDM’s response to the newspaper’s enquiry, Metcalf refuted the claim of a possible explosion

“Our burning grounds operate on a Tuesday and Thursday in Somerset West,” he said.

“The facility is used to destroy explosive waste material in a controlled manner. Waste material cannot be disposed at off-site landfill facilities and therefore all explosive manufacturing sites have such destruction facilities on their premises.”

Metcalf explained that the RDM facility holds an air emmision licence from the City of Cape Town which permits and regulates the activity. He explained that due to the variety and nature of the products being burnt, flames and clouds of smoke will permeate the air from time to time.

“So the process is normal,” he said.

Metcalf further explained that explosive waste materials are burnt mainly at night because of wind conditions in the area.

“Our facility is along the coastline and we have strong winds on most days that pose a fire risk,” he said.

“We therefore only burn in favourable weather conditions during the day or night. The facility has water sprayers all around it, our internal RDM fire department is on standby, and we notify the local fire department when we burn at night.”

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