Oceana odour pollution

FAHB: April 2016 Update

kiara.worth@gmail.com FAHB Updates 5 Comments

While we have started this new year under the oppressive stench from the Oceana fishmeal factory, we have also seen a tremendous increase in community support calling for change.

Over the past two months, almost 500 people have officially become members of Fresh Air for Hout Bay (FAHB) and more than 1,600 people have signed the FAHB petition calling for action from the City of Cape Town (City). Countless emails of concern have been sent to the City and there have been hundreds of comments on our social media sites. All of this indicates a very strong opinion from the community: enough is enough and a solution needs to be found to the odour pollution.

Thank you to everyone for your support, comments, and ideas and the efforts you have made to make our voices heard.

FAHB is committed to keeping you informed about what’s happening so in this update you will find information about the following:

  1. What you can do to get involved
  2. What’s been happening: an update on activities from the FAHB organising team
  3. The legal situation: understanding the current situation
  4. Upcoming FAHB community meetings
  5. Oceana Community Stakeholder Forum meeting
  6. Oceana’s intention to expand operations

1. What you can do to get involved

There are 10 easy things you can do to show support for our cause. The most important things are:

  • Become a member of FAHB. Register on our website and help us demonstrate this is an issue that effects many people in Hout Bay.
  • Complete an official Air Pollution Affidavit to document impacts
  • Attend the upcoming community events and volunteer to help (details below)
  • Keep up to date with communication on our social media sites
  • Send us contacts, ideas and information
  • Assist with fundraising initiatives
  • Help to promote constructive discussions based on fact and focus on finding solutions

Please read the rest of this update to understand why these things are important.

2. What’s been happening?

As always, FAHB is committed to finding a sustainable solution to the odour pollution and we have been working hard over the past few months to do this. Unfortunately it is a slow process and we are grateful for your patience and ideas on how we can improve.

Here are a few things we’ve done:

  • Revamped Fresh Air for Hout Bay website: FAHB is trying to provide accurate information about the situation and everything is being tracked and documented on our website. Register on the website, read our frequently asked questions, complete our 10 easy steps to get involved, follow media coverage, and use the resources we have collected. Please continue to send us edits and ideas for the website and let us know how this can be a better tool for you.
  • Building legitimacy of FAHB: It is of utmost importance to demonstrate that Oceana’s odour pollution is a collective concern and as such we have been growing the membership of FAHB. We currently have almost 500 members and we need your help in increasing our representation and getting people registered.
  • Petition: FAHB has developed a petition calling for action from the City and Western Cape Government. We currently have 1,620 signatures and need your help in promoting this further.
  • Letter to the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Government: FAHB has submitted an official letter to the City and Western Cape Government outlining the situation and calling for a solution to be found. The City has acknowledged receipt of this letter and we are anticipating a response by the end of April 2016. We will share further updates on our social media sites.

We are also in the process of doing the following:

  • Developing information sheets to help understand the situation
  • Developing a social media and communications plan to promote activities
  • Organising various community events
  • Gathering official documentation from the City
  • Drafting an official letter to Oceana
  • Following up on legal advice

Further information about each of these are included in this update and FAHB will keep you informed on our progress.

3. The legal situation and the possibility of taking a class action suit

There has been a lot of discussion about starting a class action suit against Oceana and FAHB has spoken to a reputable environmental law firm to better understand what position we are in. This is the information we have received:

  • There is no evidence to suggest malpractice on the part of Oceana – it appears they are fully within their legal requirements and meet all the conditions of their Atmospheric Emissions License (AEL). At this stage, we do not have enough of a case to continue with legal proceedings. (You can read more about this here.)
  • To change this, the community needs to start officially documenting the impacts experienced from the odour pollution in two ways:
    • Complete official Air Pollution Affidavits
    • Gather evidence from doctors that show the effect of the pollution on residents’ health
  • We need to gather independent and credible atmospheric emissions readings to verify information being provided by the City

Taking legal action needs to be a carefully considered decision and we need to ensure we have documented proof in what we claim. We need your help in gathering evidence. FAHB is in the process of doing the following:

  • Requesting official documentation through the Access to Information Process.
  • Developing health, business and impact surveys to record odour pollution impacts. These will be used along with affidavits to document impacts on the community.
  • Speaking to environmental engineers to investigate emissions readings opportunities.
  • Continuing to seek legal advice and clarification.

To assist in this process, we need you to do the following:

  • Complete an Air Pollution Affidavit that formally records the impact of the odour pollution on your life. We are in the process of developing a FAHB testimonial and impact log sheet to make this process easier, but in the meantime, please follow these steps:
    • Print out the Air Pollution Affidavit
    • Complete the form with as much detail as possible, including any numeric information that is appropriate
    • Have the form stamped by a Commissioner of Oaths, for example, at the police station
    • Make a copy of your affidavit (or take a photo) and either:
    • FAHB will document all affidavits and submit these to the City
  • Once we have developed the impact surveys, we will share these through our social media sites and ask that you participate in them and share them in your networks.

FAHB will continue to gather legal advice and consider what further actions need to be taken.

4. Upcoming FAHB community meetings

There has been a strong call for some kind of social action to take place, such as a march, and FAHB fully supports the idea that we need to start getting organised. To do this, we need to start meeting and we will be doing the following:

  • FAHB Volunteer Meeting: Thursday, 21 April 2016, 18:00-20:00

There is a lot going on and the organising team needs help. Many of you have offered to assist in different ways and to organise this better, we will be holding a volunteer meeting on Thursday, 21 April 2016 from 18:00 – 20:00. To attend, please send an email to freshairhoutbay@gmail.com and further details will be provided. Please only attend this meeting if you are interested and able to assist in some way. We will be holding a more general community meeting in the near future.

  • Information Stand: Monday, 2 May 2016 (public holiday)

FAHB will be organising an information stand on Monday 2 May 2016. You will be able to collect an information sheet with everything you need to know, register on the website, complete an affidavit, meet members of the organising team and share your ideas. Further details will be shared on our social media sites.

  • General Community Meeting

FAHB will be hosting a general community meeting to provide information and gather ideas. We are in the process of organising this and anticipate it will take place in early July 2016. We recognise this seems like a long way off and we are working to find ways of making this sooner. In the meantime, we encourage you to share comments and ideas on our social media sites and send these to freshairhoutbay@gmail.com.

5. Oceana Community Stakeholder Forum

In November 2015, Oceana announced they would be forming a ‘Community Stakeholder Forum’ to encourage better communication with members of the community. Representatives included the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), the Hout Bay Civic Association (HBCA), the Hout Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association (HBRRA) and key representatives from Oceana.

FAHB has not been included because Oceana considers the group “disingenuous” and accuses us of using “mob mentality” tactics to gather complaints. They do not consider the complaints from the community as “valid” and instead claim the odour is a typical by-product of fishmeal operations and should be accepted as such. FAHB disagrees with this and we are in the process of requesting official inclusion in the forum if it’s aim is to be representative of different sectors within the community.

The first Community Stakeholder Meeting took place in January 2016 and the official minutes will only be released in July 2016. As far as we understand, no critical information was discussed at this meeting and further updates will be provided as they become available.

6. Oceana’s intention to expand operations

According to information FAHB has received, Oceana intends to expand its operations within the harbour. The plant is currently located in an industrial zone and Oceana’s long-term plan is to work with the National Department of Public Works (DPW) to expand this zone from their current location to Fish on the Rocks. It is intended that this land be dedicated to Oceana’s fishing operations, although no further details about this are yet available. FAHB is trying to obtain further information from DPW and will share this once it has been received.

Again, FAHB would like to thank everyone for your overwhelming support. We will continue to provide updates and work to find a solution suitable for all people in Hout Bay.

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Comments 5

  1. Peter Roeloffze

    In this mornings Cape Times, Len swimmer refers to the rotten chemically induced odour as a fish smell and then goes on to compare it with flowers! Albeit that the latter is resultant of bad processing of the former, in my language rotten odours and the smell of fresh fish is two separate issues. Is he implying we do not know we are living in fishing village? I do not recall any complaints about the smell of fresh fish! Why is he still representing Hout Bay residents? As for the upgrade to the odour abating technology that is referred to in the same article, surely one must first comply and then operate? Its like driving an unlicensed car and telling the officer you are in the process of getting it roadworthy and he should please be patient!

  2. Peter Roeloffze

    Whatever is being done to improve the situation is admirable and hats off to those who are putting in an effort. Frankly, talk over the years has gotten the situation no closer to any solution. Waiting for reports etcetera just to prove a point is of limited help and just drags on. The place is a sewer and it is time for action. MASS ACTION. the kind of action that assisted all the “…. must fall” campaigns to be successful. Hout Bay and everybody in it must be affected, the village and harbour entrance should experience a lock down until they stop production and the plant has completed the so called upgrade. I have had personal discussions with Rodney Lentit and correspondence with him and, with Anton Bredell and Hellen Zille in copy. Despite promises of a meeting, they are yet to come to the party. I am persisting.

  3. mike dollow

    Firstly I think that any legal action should be directed against the City to amend the conditions of the licence granted to take account of the fact that the factory is surrounded by a densely populated residential area . Also the emphasis should not be only on the smell it should also refer to the chemical toxicity that is causing so much physical discomfort , particularly for those that are downwind at the time of burning . In addition any pollution testing should take place by an independent expert every day over a month of burning at venues that are downwind of the factory and at times when they are actually burning . In this regard , Oceana should be ordered to supply an accurate schedule of the days and times that it will burn , on a weekly forward basis In the circumstances the existing conditions of grant are deemed not appropriate and legal action is required to ensure that the existing licence conditions are urgently reviewed .

    I don’t see the point of legal action against Oceana since it is the City that is at fault .

    In addition the medical fraternity , clinics etc should be called upon to supply some stats on medical conditions [no names given] that are common within certain areas of the community , including both adults and children . In this regard I believe that the Hout bay medical practitioners are on side .

    As for me , myself and my family are always sick when in Hout bay during burning season , but the moment we are out of Hout bay , no problems at all . Last week for the first time ever in 20 years I was forced to turn back from my walk on the beach when I approached the factory /mariners wharf side .

    1. raoul coscia

      Well said Mike Dollow, but I can’t help regarding with some degree of cynicism your statement
      “In this regard I believe that the Hout bay medical practitioners are on side”
      Of course they will be “on side” given the opportunity to charge every patient 500-600 bucks to walk in their door. And also – how sick is “sick?” Granted we all suffer from similar symptoms; burning eyes, throat, blocked sinus etc but for the most part they would appear to be temporary and it worries me that there may simply not be enough evidence of “sickness” to substantiate a claim against the City or Oceana.

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