Masks out against stench


More than a 100 “survival kits” – to combat the stench from the Oceana fishmeal factory – were handed out by members of the Fresh Air for Hout Bay (FAHB) group during an information campaign on Saturday May 5, at the Mainstream centre.

Despite the strong south-easter, residents did not hesitate to wear their survival kit masks while FAHB founders, Ike Moriz and Kiara Worth, provided information about the campaign and handed out information sheets to the community.

The information campaign is just one of several initiatives undertaken by FAHB to try and find a solution to the ongoing stench caused by the production of fishmeal.

“The campaign was a great success and we were very impressed by the response from the public, which indicates how many people are concerned about what’s happening,” Ms Worth said.

Visitors to the stand were encouraged to complete affidavits stating how the smell affected them and to have it stamped by a Commissioner of Oaths and then drop it off at the coffee shop, TADA in Victoria Road. Residents did not hesitate to pose for a photograph wearing their masks and holding up signs reading “Oceana stinks! Help!” and “Hout Bay deserves better”.

Ms Worth said she was really encouraged by both the high number of people who were interested in what FAHB was doing as well as the overwhelming support received by the community.

“We received some great ideas, suggestions and comments and FAHB will continue to work on these issues over the next coming months,” she said. FAHB plans to have another information campaign in June.

Mr Moriz said it was wonderful to interact face to face with the community instead of via their Facebook page and website.

“It was great to see how many people support FAHB and to hear honest accounts of how the smell is actually affecting people’s day-to-day living. We interacted with more than 150 people and 90 percent of those people were willing to have their photo taken indicating that they want a voice and are willing to stand up for their rights,” he said.

What he found interesting was the comments from a group of high school pupils saying how difficult it was for them during the summer to concentrate in class with the smell lingering throughout the school and classrooms.

“We don’t often hear from the youth of Hout Bay and this is just testimony that it affects people of all ages and race,” he said.

Last month FAHB appealed to the City of Cape Town for help in a seven-page letter written by Ms Worth (“Call for legal action,” Sentinel April 22).

In the letter, Ms Worth asked the City to conduct a comprehensive health study to determine the long and short-term effects the emissions of hydrogen sulphide have on the community as well as to establish a mechanism whereby community complaints can be lodged directly to the City instead of Oceana, as currently is the case.

The City responded by saying it has been engaging with Lucky Star and the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs on the matter and once again stated that hydrogen sulphide emissions recorded in Hout Bay were way below the danger levels as stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). No other issues mentioned by Ms Worth were addressed.

However, responding to a media enquiry by the Sentinel, Mayco member for Health, Siyabulela Mamkeli, said the City has issued a notice to Oceana to have its Atmospheric Emission License (AEL) reviewed as stipulated in the Section 45 of the Air Quality Act.

He said Oceana’s current licence was the first atmospheric emission licence issued to them in terms of the new air quality management regime prescribed in terms of Chapter 5 of the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act.

“The Act prescribes that a licence must be reviewed at intervals prescribed in the licence or when circumstances demand that a review is necessary. The licence prescribed the review date for Oceana to be November 1 2017, however, given the current circumstances, it was decided to bring the review date forward,” he said.

Mr Mamkeli also confirmed that Oceana’s production records, odour management plans, stack emissions monitoring reports and annual reports will be reviewed to identify if there are any areas of the factory operations that can be improved upon and then to amend the licence conditions to reflect these areas of improvement as revised conditions of authorisation.

Mr Mamkeli further said that an inter-governmental task team comprising of officials from the City and the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning have been established to monitor the situation, however, the officials will not reside in Hout Bay as requested by FAHB.

“The task team will coordinate compliance and enforcement actions, monitoring activities and will assist with the review of the emissions licensing process,” he said.

Further, a second ambient air quality monitoring station will be stationed near the factory in the Northshore/Scotts Estate area.

But Mr Mamkeli could not say when the station would be operational as logistical arrangements regarding the station were still being finalised.

Mr Moriz said FAHB was more than willing to assist the City in any way in order to reach a solution.

However, he said it was disappointing that members of the task team would not reside in Hout Bay to effectively monitor the situation as a visit of two to three hours every now and then was not enough to get an accurate account of the situation.

Oceana referred the Sentinel to its website.