Elevated levels of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide to be probed
The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), together with Gert Sibande District Municipality in Mpumalanga will, on Thursday 18 February 2021, embark on joint operation to check up on the Sasol Secunda Operations, which are believed to be the possible source of sulphur stench experienced in parts of Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces since the weekend.
The stench is likely a combination of elevated levels of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.
While there are many sources in the area that could be contributing to these elevated levels, the District Municipality’s Air Quality Officer has been informed that the Sasol Secunda operation is experiencing stressed conditions as the facility started ramping up operations.
From the ambient air quality monitoring observations on the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS), sulphur dioxide ambient levels, while elevated, have remained in compliance with ambient standards in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Mpumalanga.
The pollutant causes an odour nuisance even at concentrations far below those that cause health hazards. People who are sensitive to unpleasant odours are likely to experience headaches and nausea.
As part of the continuous investigations, the authorities are in the processes of requesting the Sasol Secunda Operations facility to account in terms of Section 30 of National Environmental Air Quality Management Act and to put mitigation measures in place, should they be found to be the source of the smell.
Section 30 of NEMA relates to the control of environmental incidents, such as leaks, or the uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance that may cause harm to people and the environment.
Once the investigations are completed, the authorities will decide on any further course of action.
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