Locals to kick up a stink

2016-04-19 06:00

Hout Bay residents say they have now had enough of the Oceana fishmeal factory odours and are calling for a permanent solution.

Over the years the smell has got out of hand, residents say, leaving them ill with sore throats, chest pains and headaches.

Residents say living with the stink has become unbearable.

David Stephens, one of the upset residents, says their home stinks.

“We can’t even breathe properly inside our own homes. When you step outside its much worse. We will not allow this to continue as it’s really affecting us. We have had enough. People can’t be after profits when we are suffering. Something must be done. Urgently,” he says.

Mother of two, Millicent Daniels, says they need to come up with a solution.

“My children are always sick. We are all having chest problems and we suffer from sore throats all the time. The smell is strong and thick. It wasn’t like this when we first got here, but over the years things have really gotten out of hand,” she says.

In a bid to find a solution and improve their lives, an organisation called Fresh Air Hout Bay has sent a letter to the City of Cape Town detailing their struggles and asking if they can come up with a solution to this problem that has been going on for years. They made it clear that they wanted a response from the City within two weeks.

They also have an online petition that is being circulated which they also intent to be sending to the City to demonstrate their point.

For years residents have been raising concerns and communicating with relevant officials to find some kind of resolution, but this has been fruitless. They are still stuck in the same stench, residents say.

Fresh Air Hout Bay, which was formed in 2013, has been committed to eliminating the odour from their community. 

They have been monitoring the situation, engaging with both government and Oceana, and are mobilising the community to demonstrate the severity of this issue.
Kiara Worth, a facilitator for Fresh Air for Hout Bay, says the situation is very serious. “The Oceana fishmeal factory produces terrible odour pollution that affects everyone in the community – as they process up to 800 tons of fish per day, a terrible and sickening smell covers the whole community. This has an impact on everyone living there. We have recorded people feeling sick with headaches and nausea, burning eyes, sore throats and many more symptoms.”

Worth added that businesses have lost money and the smell paints a very negative perception of Hout Bay, which makes it difficult for other businesses to develop. “This problem has been going on for years and the City and Oceana have continuously ignored the issue. It’s not an easy situation. On the one hand, the factory provides jobs for some people in the community, but on the other people are losing business, compromising their health, and are forced to live in an environment that goes against our constitutional rights.”

Fresh Air for Hout Bay believes that they can find a solution to this problem, one that meets the needs of all people living in the community. Some of the solutions they suggest are the establishment of an odour pollution community complaints mechanism directly with the City; conducting a comprehensive health study to determine the health and well-being impacts of short and long-term exposure to hydrogen sulphide as emitted by the Oceana fishmeal factory and conduct a social and environmental impact assessment of Oceana’s operations to determine the impact of the industry on the broader community.

“We are trying to work with all members of the community to identify what can be done to find solutions and find an alternative enterprise that is better suited to the needs of our beautiful community. As such, we are calling for the City to conduct a series of environmental, socio-economic and health studies so we can start to identify what must and can be done to solve this problem,” says Worth.

Siyabulela Mamkeli, Mayoral Committee Member for health confirms that the City received a letter from Fresh Air for Hout Bay and they will respond in two weeks.
Mamkeli says they note the concerns raised by the organisaiton and wish to point out that the City, as the licensing authority for issuing Lucky Star with their emissions licence, needs to work within the legislative framework prescribed in the Air Quality Act and its Listing Notice 893 of 2013.

“In terms of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, it is the competency of the National Minister of Environmental Affairs to prescribe emission limits for specified listed activities. With regard to Category 10 Animal Matter Processing Facilities, the Minister has not prescribed any emission limits. We will be engaging with the National Air Quality Officer with a view to requesting an amendment to the listing notice to include emission limits to be prescribed for animal matter processing facilities. There is nothing prohibiting residents from liaising with the National Air Quality Officer too,” he says.

The City has been engaging with Lucky Star and provincial government.
“Lucky Star has committed to upgrading its chemical scrubber (odour filtration system) to replace the existing unit with a more efficient, higher capacity unit. The necessary due diligence for this upgrade has been completed and Lucky Star has been granted authority to commence the design, procurement and commissioning of this new unit.” The process will, however, take some months to complete. Once the new unit has been installed, Lucky Star will be required to conduct independent in-stack emissions testing pre- and post-the scrubbing system in order to demonstrate the efficiency of the unit.
Oceana says an upgraded chemical scrubber will be installed and operational in 2017.

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