Fresh Air Hout Bay (FAHB) is calling on residents to make a “strong statement” by submitting complaints to the City over the Oceana fishmeal factory.
This after a notice about the renewal and variation of the factory’s air emission licence appeared in the Sentinel last week.
FAHB has noted the variation is to permit the use of formalin – a substance comprising 40% formaldehyde – in the production process.
While the organisation’s founder, Kiara Worth, said she would need to do more research on the impact of the substance, it would undoubtedly add to the concerns of residents already questioning emissions from the factory.
Formalin was previously used at the factory on-site until 2011.
The City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, JP Smith, said the reintroduction of formalin to the fish rendering production process had triggered the need for a variation of the factory’s atmospheric emission licence.
“It would be subject to a risk assessment process by an independent specialist before the approval of its reintroduction would be considered. Formalin was historically used on-site until 2011. Its use in the process was, however, discontinued for a period of time,” he said.
“Internationally, formalin is widely used in the fish rendering industry to keep the fish flesh firm enough for processing. It is usually added at a rate of 0 – 2% by weight of fish processed. A health risk assessment conducted on the West Coast fish-rendering industry in 2010/2011 demonstrated no appreciable health risks associated with the use of formalin within this application rate.”
According to a 2005 research paper by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, “addition of excess formalin to the raw fish to prevent either decomposition in the delay between catching and processing or to facilitate the pressing operation should be discouraged”, as it adversely affects the protein content.
FAHB has been consolidating complaints about the smell emanating from the Oceana factory in anticipation of the renewal notice.
“We thought that the application would come at the end of the year, but it’s been made three months earlier than expected.
We are urging residents to complete our air pollution impact survey on our website, as well as raise any concerns as individuals. The comment period closes on August 17 so we are appealing to residents to respond by this time,” Ms Worth said.
FAHB will also be setting up a stand at the Hout Bay Market, and those completing the survey will be entered into a draw to win a prize.
The organisation has been trying to access a health risk assessment conducted in 2016 through the Public Access to Information Act, but without success. Ms Worth accused Oceana of deliberately withholding important information about the health implications of its production from the community.
In a statement, Oceana said: “As part of the atmospheric emissions licence renewal process, we are currently conducting a public participation process. Per the public notification advertised in a number of local newspapers and the stakeholder communication website (http://fishmealfactory.co.za/), the procedure requires that all questions or comments regarding the renewal or the variation process be addressed to the appointed environmental assessment practitioner, Mische Molife, at email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Queries sent to Ms Molife were not responded to by the time this edition went to print.