Public urged to be smog police

2010-08-10 00:00

THE air pollution in the Orient Heights suburb of Northdale has led resident Anesh Orrie to express frustration about the Msunduzi Municipality’ lack of action.

Speaking to The Witness, Orrie expressed how hazardous the situation has become, citing industrial air pollution as his major concern.

“The municipality has an obligation to monitor air pollution because it endangers the health of the citizens.

“They are not enforcing the bylaws tht are supposed to protect us from air pollution.”

Orrie said Mountain Rise, Raisethorpe and Orient Heights are the areas worst affected by air pollution.

He called on residents of these areas to stop burning their refuse because they add to the air pollution there.

“The municipality needs to regularly collect refuse so that our people do not end up burning their refuse.”

Orrie said the pollution gets worse at night and affects residents suffering from respiratory problems.

Another concerned Ashdown resident, Maqhawe Mthembu, phoned The Witness to complain about the increased levels of air pollution from the industries surrounding his neighbourhood.

He said he wants to see some action from the municipality to solve the problem.

Andrew Layman, CEO of Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, said the chamber’s environmental health unit has reported that since the closure of PG Bison the number of complaints about air pollution has dropped.

The acting marketing and communications manager for Msunduzi Municipality, Brian Zuma, said, “During the winter months the city is exposed to high levels of visible air pollution from various sources.”

He said contributing factors are grass fires and the indiscriminate burning of refuse, during the winter months, whose smoke can be seen throughout the city.

“This dark smoke largely consists of particulate matter and other pollutants.

“The municipality has a policy for controlled burning in the city, and applications for permits are considered in conjunction with the fire services unit as well as the provincial forestry department,” Zuma said.

He said air pollutants and smoke from fires in neighbouring municipalities also impact on the city’s air quality.

Zuma said emissions from motor vehicles on the city’s congested roads, especially during peak hours, and from industries also contribute to the poor quality of air.

These pollutants dissipate and air quality improves when there is warmer weather and the season changes, he added.

An inter-governmental inspection team is regulating industries in terms of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act no. 39 0f 2004 and other applicable legislature, according to Zuma.

“The provincial department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, in partnership with the municipality, recently deployed a real-time air quality monitoring station at Northdale Hospital,” he said.

The station is to be commissioned shortly, and thereafter data will be used to help practitioners identify the pollution sources in the affected area.

Zuma said major industries in the city have been co-operating with the authorities.

A scrubber unit costing R10 million was recently installed at a factory in the Willowton area.

“This initiative has shown a considerable improvement on air pollution with this intervention,” he said.

Zuma encouraged the public to report air pollution to the Environmental Health Unit, third floor, A.S. Chetty Building, 333 Church Street, and promised that they will be investigated.

RICO Euripdou of groundWork, a non-profit environmental justice service and development organisation, describes air pollution as the addition of harmful substances to the atmosphere resulting in damage to the environment, human health and quality of life.

He says air pollutants consist of gaseous pollutants, odours and suspended particle matter (dust, fumes, mist and smoke).

Oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, lead and ozone are all pollutants.

Air pollution contributes illnesses such as asthma, emphysema and cancer.

“The population most at risk are the elderly, very young children, outdoor exercisers, and people with existing respiratory problems,” he says.

“Generally you need three things to protect the public from air emissions: strong regulations, adequate monitoring and tough enforcement; if any link is weak the public are not protected.”

Euripidou says South Africa is not in an ideal position to estimate the environmental burden because of poor air quality monitoring and poor health data to explain environmental pollution.

It is unfortunate that the municipality has not been able to give groundWork data which show what pollutants are prevalent in the Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas.

That’s why, Euripidou says, he is not in a position to tell the public what air pollution hazards to look out for.

 

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