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SDCEA investigates putrid smells in South Durban

The team took air samples in the various places they visited.

THE South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) staff members were recently taken on a Toxic Tour of the significant air pollution hot spots in south Durban.

This allowed them to acquire the skill of taking air quality samples by using the bucket air sampling system. The team visited Wentworth, Merebank and the Bluff to determine where the toxic smells emanated from. The first stop was on Tara Road where there was a strong benzene smell in the air.

However, due to the change in wind direction, an air sample could not be taken. GIS and air quality officer, Bongani Mthembu, demonstrated how to take a bucket sample. This entailed finding a spot where the smell was strongest and using a 25-litre custom made bucket, trap air in the tedlar bag inside.

“There is a nitrogen cushion layer within the tedlar bag that separates the toxins to be analysed. The bag has a nozzle which must be screwed opened by three threads and attached to the silver intake of the lid. The pump is put into the out-take to suck out the air already present in the bucket so that the toxic air is all that enters the bag for testing,” said media liaison, Joanne Groom.

The team blocked their noses while driving past Badulla Drive as the strong sulphuric smell burned their nostrils. In Merebank near the paper mill, they were met with an awful sewage smell. 

“This event brought back recent memories from when I assisted in interviewing people from the Merebank community. They stated that the smells often got so bad that they had to close their windows while eating or just trying to breathe properly,” said Joanne.

At Sea Point, flares were spotted and the canal was found polluted allegedly by industries. No smells were detected at the Island View storage facility due to an opposing wind direction at the time.

Days later, the team journeyed to a landfill site and experienced an awful toxic smell emanating. They felt it worrisome to see the bush around the capped dumpsite burning unattended and not monitored.

“The toxic tour showed what putrid air pollutants are being exposed to the south Durban communities and being breathed in by residents. It is sad that community members have had to get used to these conditions and are being affected daily.”

“It makes one wonder what would happen to us all if there were to be more explosions at any of the refineries seeing as there is no emergency plan. The city needs to be responsible and create a plan that would save many lives when further incidents occur,” she added.  



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