Come clean, Engen told as health fears grow

Engen refinery on Tara road, Bluff. File Picture: Bongani Mbatha /Independent Newspapers

Engen refinery on Tara road, Bluff. File Picture: Bongani Mbatha /Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 26, 2024


Durban — The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) has called on all residents to take a stand against Engen Refinery on the Bluff.

The SDCEA claimed that Engen acted irresponsibly when it started up the Kerosene Hydrotreater Unit (KHT) at its Tara Road refinery in December. The SDCEA said there were health concerns among affected fenceline communities in Merebank and Wentworth due to emissions from the plant.

SDCEA head Desmond D’Sa said despite Engen having published a notice in a community newspaper on October 24 last year, no warning was given to the community alerting them of the dangers, risks and emissions that would arise from the flaring.

“This resulted in a bleak Christmas celebration for many residents, who reported this to us that they’re experiencing respiratory-related difficulties arising from Engen’s emissions.”

D’Sa added that Engen had not acted in good faith. He said in the event that Engen wished to undertake any operations within the refinery which impact on the fenceline communities, the SDCEA had to be notified in order for them to understand the risks associated with the activities.

“We acknowledge that having work for our people is important, however, the health and well-being of our people must be put before Engen’s profit and the menial employment opportunities they provide to the community. “We cannot compromise the well-being of people, and we call on all residents to take a stand against Engen, which has acted irresponsibly,” he said.

D’Sa referred to an incident in 2020 when there was an explosion at the refinery, resulting in many residents experiencing trauma and health issues – an experience they feared could occur again due to the KHT start-up.

“The aftermath of the Engen Refinery explosion serves as a stark reminder of the importance of prioritising safety and environmental responsibility in an industrial operation,” D’Sa concluded.

Desmond D'sa. Picture: SDCEA/Facebook

Engen’s spokesperson, Gavin Smith, said that the Engen Durban Marine Terminal and Solvents Manufacturing Complex operated in strict accordance with its Atmospheric Emissions Licence (AEL) and all applicable laws.

“Engen conducts consistent emissions monitoring along the terminal’s fenceline. Baseline monitoring was conducted prior to the December 2023 start-up of the Kerosene Hydrotreater Unit (now called the Solvents Manufacturing Complex), and post start-up, with no noticeable impact on the emissions, which were within AEL limits,” Smith said.

“A community flyer compiled in collaboration with the Community-Engen Joint Committee was published in the Merebank Rising Sun newspaper on October 24 last year, containing information about the solvents manufacturing project. Furthermore, 2 000 flyers were also distributed door-to-door to the fenceline residents in Merebank and Wentworth on October 25,” he continued.

“Engen continuously engages openly and transparently with a broad representation of South Durban community representatives through the Community-Engen Joint Committee to address matters of concern and to explore the co-creation of future opportunities.

“The committee is Engen’s primary platform of engagement with the South Durban community, through which numerous community-led outreach initiatives aimed at uplifting and empowering the local community continue to be jointly and effectively spearheaded,” Smith added.

Merebank resident, Raven Naidoo, said that he has not been negatively affected by the Engen refinery.

He said the refinery was being converted into a storage facility and that had led to an increase in truck traffic, which had led to road infrastructure damages and congestion.

“All I ask is regular communication and management of the surrounding areas between Engen and residents.

“There are those that are opposed to corporations and those who are willing to work with them. We need to find the middle ground between those and aim for them to co-exist,” Naidoo said.

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