The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and the Gert Sibande District Municipality in Mpumalanga will on Thursday embark on a joint operation to check up on the Sasol Secunda Operations, believed to be the possible source of sulphur stench experienced in parts of Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces since the weekend.
According to the department, the stench is likely a combination of elevated levels of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.
“While there are many sources in the area that could be contributing to these elevated levels, the District Municipality’s Air Quality Officer has been informed that the Sasol Secunda operation is experiencing stressed conditions as the facility started ramping up operations.
“From the ambient air quality monitoring observations on the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS), sulphur dioxide ambient levels, while elevated, have remained in compliance with ambient standards in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Mpumalanga,” said the department.
It said though the pollutant is at concentrations far below those that cause health hazards, people who are sensitive to unpleasant odours are likely to experience headaches and nausea.
READ MORE: ‘Sulphur smell’ has Pretoria residents worried, as some complain of headaches
The department is in the process of requesting the Sasol Secunda Operations facility to account in terms of Section 30 of National Environmental Air Quality Management Act and to put mitigation measures in place, should they be found to be the source of the smell.
“Section 30 of NEMA relates to the control of environmental incidents, such as leaks, or the uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance that may cause harm to people and the environment.”
Once the investigations are completed, the department will decide on any further course of action.
Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde