Cape Town - 130226 - A caretaker at the crematorium walks towards the chapel, as white smoke rises from the steeple, below which is the furnace. Local business workers have made complaints about the smell from the Maitland Crematorium. It seems like the smell might be coming from a coffee producing factory nearby. PICTURE: THOMAS HOLDER. REPORTER: NATASHA PRINCE.

Cape Town - People working near the Maitland cemetery say an overwhelming stench from the crematorium has them gasping for air.

However, the cemetery’s management say they have not received any complaints, are compliant with regulations and are willing to engage with complainants.

In November 2005, the crematorium faced closure after it was warned to upgrade.

This week, Charles York who works as a security guard at a business in Maitland Park, said the smell of “frying corpses” was overwhelming.

“The smoke hangs heavy,” York said.

“But it’s not a continuous thing - some days it’s very heavy and other days it’s not that bad.”

York said he had spoken to many employees in the business park who were unhappy about the smell.

One woman said it was like the “smell of burnt toast” and another man said the smell was particularly bad on a Friday.

But Cedric Barthus, an operational manager for Independent Cremations South Africa (Icsa), which runs the crematorium, said nocomplaints had been received and there was “an open door policy” for anyone who had concerns.

There were about 25 crematoriums in the country and Icsa managed 12 of them, Barthus said.

There are about 600 cremations a month. There are six ovens which operate at under 1 000ºC.

Sometimes it could take between 10 and 15 minutes to burn a coffin, said Barthus, who added that occasionally black smoke was caused by complications with the wood of the coffin.

“But then we stop everything immediately and we call in the engineers,” he said.

Barthus said they had spent more than R90 000 for their emissions licence in 2005 and they were having it renewed.

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we are sensitive to the environment,” he said. “We’ve got no choice but to comply.”

Barthus said that in the past there had been numerous complaints. These had stopped.

The wind often pushed the smoke towards the business area.

The chimney had been constructed to meet all the prescribed specifications, Barthus said.

He encouraged people to phone or visit the crematorium with complaints.

In 2005, the Cape Argus reported that the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had launched an investigation into the crematorium. At the time it was reported that businesses had laid complaints about “a stomach-churning stench from the site”.

Back then, the crematorium management blamed the smell on squatters in the graveyard, hawkers making fires at Mutual Station and people burning copper in the adjacent cemetery.

Barthus said the complaints in 2005 had been “dealt with”.

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Cape Argus