Ethekwini Municipality wants Engen Refinery to ensure gas leaks end after pungent smell causes widespread community anger
Durban – The eThekwini Municipality will ensure that measures are taken to prevent a recurrence of a gas leak from Engen Oil Refinery on Tara Road, south of Durban.
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance spokesperson Desmond D’Sa said Merewent residents from Tezpur Place, Lakimpur Place, Badulla Drive and Dinapur Road were affected by the release of the chemical Methyl Mercaptan on Monday night.
EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the eThekwini Health Unit investigated the complaint received from the community.
He said residents complained of a pungent odour that was detected in the surrounding community.
“Initial reports received from Engen Refinery has revealed that the chemical released was mercaptan which has a pungent odour. Further investigations are required to establish the exact quantity of mercaptan released as well as the root cause analysis,” Mayisela said.
“Mercaptan is known to be an irritant to eyes, nose and throat, however, this was based on the quantities released which is currently being established. The eThekwini Municipality does monitor priority pollutants which does not include mercaptans. No elevated concentrations of the priority pollutants were experienced at the time” he added
Engen spokesperson Gavin Smith said that at approximately 10.15pm on Monday, 27 July 2020 a small amount of mercaptan was leaked from the Engen Refinery. He said the release was detected immediately and isolated. He said an investigation is in progress to determine the cause.
Mayisela said eThekwini Municipality will ensure that Engen Refinery establishes the root cause and that measures are taken to prevent a re occurrence of this incident.
“It is noted that Engen have a responsibility to protect their own employees as well as members of the community,” Mayisela said.
The SDCEA said this is the second leak in two weeks.
D’sa claimed it has been happening for far too long with no prosecution for the culprit.
“Residents have asked why is the Engen refinery’exempted from prosecution ‘during Covid-19 level 3. They had numerous incidents since they were allowed to reopen and start their production lines which has affected the local residents of South Durban with their health,” D’sa said.
“We are tired of begging for our rights that states. We have a right to a clean and healthy Environment enshrined in the constitution,” D’sa said.
Shadow Deputy Minister Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries MP Hannah Shameema Winkler said on Friday that she welcomed the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DEFF) decision to convene a stakeholder’s forum, after repeatedly placing it on the DEFF portfolio committee agenda, to address the issues of toxic air pollution that has long beleaguered communities living in the South Durban Basin.
“I have repeatedly called on DEFF to intervene in the South Durban Basin, including asking for the appearance of the eThekwini Municipality, Engen, SAPREF and other South Durban Stakeholders before the DEFF portfolio committee. Although the appearance engendered robust debate, it yielded little to no results,”Winkler said.
In February of this year, Winkler and a number of colleagues, DA KZN MPL on Environmental Affairs, Heinz De Boer, and DA South Durban Basin Councillors JP Prinsloo, Sharmaine Sewshanker, Aubrey Snyman, Shad Nowbuth, Gavin Hegter, Samantha Windvogel and Sithembiso Ngema embarked on an initiative to save the South Durban Basin and put pressure on the municipality and national government to address pollution there.