Residents want outside health expert for mill

South Durban community groups want an independent expert to asess the health and air pollution impacts of Mondi's proposed R450-million paper mill expansion project in Merebank.

In a statement earlier this month, the Anglo American group company said the mill expansion would "significantly improve the environment" in South Durban - a claim which community representatives refuse to accept at face value.

Mondi's plan to boost paper production by 20 percent is linked to the installation of a R200-million "multifuel fluidised bed boiler" - an incineration and power generation device which communities believe could exacerbate the already high levels of air pollution.

A public meeting on the project was held this week, but was poorly attended because it clashed with a separate meeting in the area on the Sapref petrol pipeline leak.

Nevertheless, four community groups issued a statement later, calling for an independent technical expert to assess the pollution impacts of the Mondi incinerator.

Although the incineration boiler will be erected on Mondi's Merebank site, it will be owned and operated by Biotrace Trading, a consortium of the US-based Fieldstone Private Capital Group and Duke Engineering, together with Babcock Africa.

In a joint statement, the Merebank Environmental Action Committee, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Merebank Residents' Association and Merebank Clinic Committee said study documents on the project were "unverified".

They believed the project could harm community health at a time when families were already suffering from asthma, cancer and leukaemia linked to prolonged exposure to toxic emissions and pollution.

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