Epol working on ‘stench’

2016-09-23 08:07
Northern suburbs fed up with four-month delay to stop factory's nauseating smells.

Northern suburbs fed up with four-month delay to stop factory's nauseating smells. (File)

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Mountain Rise residents have complained that the “stench” from the Epol factory in Willowtown Road is back, and it’s “unbearable”.

Residents had been complaining of a “pungent stench” in the area for years before a meeting between the municipality, community members and Epol was held in May this year.

Msunduzi Municipality identified the smell as coming from Epol, and said measures should be taken to address the smell.

Sillito environmental consultant Colleen McCreadie, appointed by Epol to manage air quality specialist input and facilitate meetings, said at the time of the meeting that ­independent air quality specialist Agros Scientific investigated the odour and compiled a report on the findings.

McCreadie said the investigation ­included site inspections, the analysing of raw material quality, determining which product line was being ­manufactured at the time of odour complaints and many other measures.

The findings, reported at the May meeting, suggested a number of steps could be taken, one being to raise the vents through which the odours are released by 15 metres.

Mountain Rise resident and ANC PR councillor Mehmood Oumar said then that a solution was needed as soon as possible.

Four months later, residents have complained that the smell has worsened to “nauseating levels”.

Oumar said the odour was “so bad” that residents often had to shut their windows and doors to keep the smell out.

“The environmental consultant has given us feedback in bits and pieces and says they are working on a solution, but enough is enough and the needs of residents of Sobantu and Mountain Rise need to be put into consideration,” he said.

A resident who would not be named said the smell had been “particularly bad” over the last three weeks.

“It is unbearable,” said the resident.

“It is not only during the week, but during the weekends too, and we have to shut all our doors and windows to keep that horrible smell out.

“It is nauseating and we can no longer have braais outside because nobody wants to eat their food with that disgusting smell in the air.

“The smell is not mild by any means. It is pungent.”

Ward 35 councillor Sandile Dlamini said he had not received any complaints on the matter but had noticed the smell in the area.

“The smell directly affects residents in Sobantu, Mountain Rise and parts of Eastwood,” he said.

“I have not been approached by any residents and think we need to understand the underlying issues and approach both Epol and the municipality before anyone starts pointing fingers,” he said.

RCL Foods (Epol-owned) chief legal officer Stephan Heath said the company had three complaints on record from September 7, September 18 and September 19.

“These are the first complaints received since July this year,” he said.

“Since the odour survey report was produced, Epol has been working closely with raw materials suppliers to ensure a high standard of raw material is consistently delivered.”

He said the decrease in complaints received between March and August indicated that the measures taken had had some success.

“At the same time, the air quality specialists are investigating the upgrade to the emissions vent points at the plant and an emissions dispersion modelling exercise is underway to find a more effective way to release emissions.”

He said specialist studies were to be completed by the end of September, with the engineering upgrade expected to be completed in March 2017.

He said the recent increase in complaints was under investigation. “It can be expected that the engineering upgrades being proposed will reduce any odour impacts to acceptable levels. Until the upgrades are completed, Epol is undertaking all action agreed to in the May 5 stakeholder forum meeting,” he said.

“We would like to assure the community of Epol’s ongoing commitment to resolve this matter.”

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said all complaints had been logged and were being investigated.

“The cause of the odour is under investigation by the company, and their mitigation measures are being monitored by Msunduzi’s environmental health unit.” A follow-up meeting between Msunduzi, Epol and relevant stakeholders had been planned, but the date was yet to be confirmed.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pollution

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