The battle ‘sulphur dioxide refinery emissions versus resilient residents association’ continues.
The prime position of the West Coast suburb of Tableview, near Bloubergstrand as well as Cape Town, is just 17km from the Chevron Refinery in Milnerton. During 1994 to 1996 sulphur dioxide (S02) emissions from the refinery reached up to 50 tons on average per day. Those affected by toxic gasses and extreme noise at the time, were residents in the north western suburban areas of Milnerton, Phoenix, Joe Slovo, Table View, Parklands, Dunoon, Richwood, Bothasig, Edgemead as well as informal settlements.
However, historic events recorded one of many riches of this suburb to also be the resilience of its residents. As the result of their tireless efforts of over 10 years in promoting a healthy environment, the Tableview Residents’ Association (TRA) was instrumental in the drastic reduction in emission levels down to 18 and 19 tons per day. TRA Chairman Andy Birkinshaw says following the association’s submission to government in 2004 for a revised bill ‘Based on residents’ constitutional right of a clean and healthy environment’ the New Air Quality Management Act was promulgated. Birkinshaw says in view of the refinery’s new licence to only emit 22 tons per day, this represents a dramatic decrease of more than half the historically recorded emissions.
Action was taken by residents after the publication of a research study by The UCT Lung Institute in 2003. It reported on 3 162 children in the city’s northern suburbs who had ‘unusually high levels of asthma and allergies, associated with being exposed to petrochemical emissions.’ Anecdotal evidence, in addition to the scientifically proven effects on young children also showed that the elderly in particular are affected by toxic emissions.
The latest turn of events of renewed increased emissions resulting in greater negative impact on the health of residents follows Chevrons’ most recent application for a 15% increase in emissions. This, despite future legislation tabled for reduced daily averages of around 11.2 tons by 2015, and further daily average limits set at 5.5 tons by 2020, as well as much lower emissions at other Chevron refineries across the world.
As a result, the TRA who is assisted by the Legal Recources Centre has submitted a request for the company’s SO2 daily emissions to be capped at 8.6 tons. This represents a reasonable request says Birkinshaw, since the refinery has in fact achieved such low levels over the last two years.
Asked about the possible effects on property that may result from related health issues of residents, Remax Property Associates Broker Owner Caron Leslie says the presence of the refinery since before development took place, “has never impacted negatively on the area.” She says residents are attracted to Tableview because of close proximity to town, excellent schools and a good public transport system. Public amenities such as good hospitals and retirement complexes offer good support systems for senior citizens in the area she says.
As a fierce promoter of the Tableview lifestyle, Birkinshaw says computer modelling systems have illustrated where an outfall of carbon emissions can take place. He says varying influences of atmospheric conditions over distances of 5 to 10 km radius occur in inland as opposed to coastal suburban areas. He says lesser impact of emissions can be experienced during winter months in Tableview when prevailing North Westerly winds blow, as opposed to South Easterly breezes during summer.