Stench halts housing

Pallisade fencing on Erf 8474, known to locals as Dallas.

The City of Cape Town has conceded that emissions from the Oceana Fishmeal factory could be harmful to the health of residents living in the factory’s immediate surroundings.

This came to light after Hangberg residents living in the temporary relocation area, who are on the waiting list for permanent housing, expressed their dissatisfaction after the Community Residential Units (CRU) which were earmarked to be developed on Erf 8474 – known to locals as Dallas – were unexpectedly halted. Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for health, said the project was placed on hold after an air quality study was commissioned and a specialist consultant recommended that the proposed sites not be developed for residential purposes.

He admitted that emissions from industrial processes can potentially be harmful to human health and for that reason, he said it was necessary to manage and assess the impacts of industrial activities on new residential developments where in worst-case scenarios, potential air pollution risks may occur.

Before the recent health risk assessment, Mr Mamkeli stuck to his guns, saying the ambient air quality concentrations recorded at the Western Cape Government monitoring station, located at Sentinel Primary School in Hangberg, were considerably below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) hazardous health guideline and simply described the smell – which has been a very controversial topic for the past few years – to be on a nuisance level.

Another Hangberg resident, who asked not to be identified, has also been waiting for a CRU in Dallas for more than three years.

She said since they heard that the development would be halted earlier this year, the residents living in the temporary relocation area have had no communication from the City as to where the new development would be and how long they still needed to stay in the temporary relocation area.

“The living conditions in the temporary relocation area are not ideal. The homes are bitterly cold in winter and excruciating hot in summer. They (the City) have used bubble wrap for insulation and it is obviously not ideal,” she said.

In her opinion, the City should have done a land audit before removing the families who lived on Erf 8474 three years ago.
She said a unit in the new Sea View housing development – known to locals as Texas – was offered to her but she declined.

“It is not what the City promised me,” she said.

The City officially opened the R30 million development with 71 rental units in December last year (“Houses for Hangberg,” Sentinel, December 11).
However, she said, the reason given by the City as to why the development was put on hold was outrageous.

“I was born in Hangberg and have lived here my entire life and so has my family. We have never had a problem with the smell from the factory or ever been sick from it,” she said.

Warren Abrahams, secretary of the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), said the City and the PMF were currently discussing the Dallas housing development.
He said the PMF had advised the City that the smell was of no concern to the residents and that the building development project should go ahead as previously planned.

He said if the plot was to remain vacant, families currently living in the temporary relocation area wanted to move back to their plots on Erf 8474.“The temporary relocation area has become unsafe as the fence around the area was stolen and anyone can walk though the area. There are also health and noise complaints,” he said. He said the City was currently putting up fencing at the Dallas site to curb illegal structures going up and was in the process of installing information and warning signage to advise the community that it was earmarked for development. “There is an urgent need for housing in Hangberg and the City needs to do a housing survey as soon as possible.

“Copies of the air quality assessment have also been requested from the City but to date we haven’t received the report yet and the community is going as per word of mouth from City officials,” he said.

Benedicta van Minnen, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said two alternative sites have been identified and a similar air quality study is under way for those sites.

“The City intends to develop housing on those sites in the near future if they are found to be suitable for residential purposes.

“The families that were residing on the Dallas site will then be afforded a housing opportunity on the new sites,” she said.