Cape Town - An urgent meeting to discuss the “increasing obnoxiousness” of the smell emanating from the Lucky Fish factory in Hout Bay has been called for this week, amid renewed calls from concerned residents that their health is being affected.
The Hout Bay Ratepayers’ Association, as well as an air quality expert who is part of the Clean Air for Hout Bay subcommittee, will meet the management of Oceana Brands, trading as Lucky Star, as well as the city’s mayoral committee member for health, about their concerns that important information about the emissions has been withheld from the community.
A report on the status of the investigation into odour complaints by the Hout Bay Residents and Ratepayers’ Association was considered at Friday’s subcouncil meeting.
Kiara Worth, of the Clean Air for Hout Bay group, said at the meeting that the odour from the factory had worsened in the past two years, and was becoming a “nuisance and a detriment” to the health and welfare of residents.
She said the association’s Clean Air for Hout Bay subcommittee had the support of 2 500 members against the smell.
“The responses from the city and Oceana are not resolving the situation.”
Ward councillor Marga Haywood appealed for an independent forensic investigation.
“The smell from that factory in the past two years has not been fish. It is the smell of decomposing bodies. People are not able to eat. The obnoxiousness of the emissions has changed in the last two to three years.”
The subcouncil agreed that the matter would be dealt with during this week’s meeting, which would include Haywood as the ward councillor.
According to the report by Ian Geldenhuys, of city health, the factory has an atmospheric emission licence for a listed activity and has adopted best practice for odour management, as required by national legislation.
Lucky Star processes pelagic fish, such as anchovies and pilchards, to produce a high-quality fish meal which is exported to international markets.
Geldenhuys said the production generally ran from February to July.
The report outlined the continuous improvements put in place by Lucky Star since 2008 to mitigate the odour, as well as the various investigations by the air quality management unit.
“It was found that the operations of the factory are generally in compliance with their emission licence conditions,” said Geldenhuys.
However, the civic groups representing concerned Hout Bay residents have registered the smell as a public nuisance.
The residents have argued that the fish factory is in violation of the air quality management by-law.
The Hout Bay Residents and Ratepayers’ Association said it considered the smell to be a “blemish on the community of Hout Bay and that it exerts a serious negative influence on this area’s otherwise high tourism potential, thus resulting in a loss of employment opportunities which are desperately needed”.
Geldenhuys said that while a decision could be taken not to renew Lucky Star’s emission licence, or to withdraw it all together, this would have to pass the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.
He added that the complainants had the right to consider civil litigation. “I believe the factory has technically done all that is reasonably practical to control odours and this has been verified by (third parties including the air quality officer). There is, however, always room for improvements.”
Lucky Star’s legal representative was at the subcouncil meeting. However, the company will comment further after Thursday’s meeting.