SOUTHERN CAPE NEWS - In at least four of the seven local municipalities of the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), air quality at certain spots is of concern and requires the monitoring of PM10 particulates and/or nitrogen dioxide.
Two potential problem areas in Oudtshoorn were identified in the form of high estimated PM10 particulate matter, sulphur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in the industrial areas to the south-west and north-west of the town centre.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated, based on 2016 data, 4.2 million deaths annually were due to poor ambient air quality, and 3.8 million due to poor indoor air quality.
Particulate matter is the collective name for fine solid or liquid particles added to the atmosphere by processes at the earth's surface, and includes dust, smoke, soot, pollen and soil particles. Particulate matter can be principally characterised as discrete particles spanning several orders of magnitude in size. The size of PM 10 particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into lungs, and some may even get into the bloodstream.
Exposure to such particles can affect both the lungs and your heart.
In the case of the Knysna Main Road, the air quality may be bad enough to pose a health hazard.
While local and international tourism contribute substantially to the Knysna economy, of specific concern is the effect on air quality of the high traffic volumes through town and vehicles constantly stopping and starting.
The results of a dispersion modelling study indicate there is a possibility that the short term air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide may be breached along Main Road in the town centre and may be a potential health risks. Breathing in air with a high concentration of nitrogen dioxide can irritate the airways in the respiratory system. Such exposure over short periods can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory disease symptoms.
This stems from research results by Lethabo Air Quality Specialists (LAQS), contracted to revise the existing Air Quality Management Plan of the GRDM. LAQS says the estimated nitrogen dioxide concentration in along Knysna's Main Road may potentially be a health threat that warrants further investigation.
It is important to note that pollutants can remain toxic in the environment for prolonged periods, continuously affecting the receiving environment and posing a threat to human health and quality of life.
Air quality management aims to estimate human exposure to criteria pollutants in order to manage air quality and the impacts of deteriorating air quality.
The public has until 29 July to comment on the 2019 GRDM Air Quality Management Plan. See www.cape-eaprac.co.za for details.
According to the National Framework for Air Quality Management in SA, ambient air quality monitoring is primarily the responsibility of both the GRDM and the local municipalities that form part of it.
An Air Quality Management Plan was compiled for the GRDM in 2007 and, as required by law, was revised in 2012/2013. The revision of the 2012/2013 AQMP is being done by LAQS.
All the relevant documents are available on the website of Cape EAPrac Environmental Consultants of George and here:
- Draft Report June 2019 - Mossel Bay AQMP
- Progress report 1 - Compliance with 2012 AQMP
- Progress report 2 - Status quo assesment
- Progress report 3 - Emissions inventory
- Progress report 4 - Dispersion modelling study
- Progress report 5 - Monitoring Modelling
- State of Environment Outlook Report for the Western Cape Province Air Quality
While it is widely thought that air pollution the Southern Cape is hardly a problem, Section 126.96.36.199 of the 2017 National Framework classifies the air quality in the Garden Route District municipal area as "poor" due to the combined industrial and urban activities in the region. LAQS owner Chris Albertyn does not entirely agree with this classification, "as air quality monitoring done to date does not support this conclusion".
Comprehensive research into the various sources of air pollution emissions were conducted during the revision process, among others industrial sources; residential sources; vehicle/moving emissions and other sources such as water treatment works and landfill sites.
The study was conducted across all of the B-municipalities in the Garden Route, namely Bitou (Plettenberg Bay), Knysna, George, Mossel Bay, Oudtshoorn, Kannaland and Hessequa (Albertinia / Riversdale / Heidelberg).
LAQS conducted extensive dispersion modelling and the results are covered in detail in its report, GRDM-2019 PR.4, of May 2019, available at www.cape-eaprac.co.za/
The heaviest traffic flow along any section of the N2 national road in the Garden Route is past Hartenbos, outside Mossel Bay, where in excess of 6.9 million vehicles were counted by SANRAL in 2018.
In town, by far the highest traffic density is experienced along the Louis Fourie provincial road (R102) between Hartenbos and Mossel Bay, through the Voorbaai area, where about 9.5 million vehicles were counted during 2018. Research indicates the impact of vehicle-related nitrogen dioxide emissions along Louis Fourie Road, past Voorbaai and towards Heiderand, may be high.
The main sources of odorous emissions are in Mossdustria and the dispersion model estimates that odours will generally be noticed in and around that area, although odours could extend to the south-east and south-west of Mossdustria, parts of Dana Bay and the western parts of Mossel Bay.
Complaints about emissions from the Rheebok Bricks operations in the Tergniet area were received and monitoring activities are continuing in the area.
Major sources of industrial emissions were identified during the revision process of the 2012/2013 AQMP. Since then the GRDM obtained as much information as possible on industrial emissions and Albertyn says a fairly comprehensive inventory therefore exists. Some of the industries, however, specifically those not regarded as controlled emitters, have no information about the actual emissions of pollutants from their processes as quantification of emissions was never required. Industrial sources are grouped as either those requiring atmospheric emission licences (AELs) and those that do not.
Automated methods of monitoring are expensive and as a result, out of reach for the GRDM.
The Western Cape government has made three automated measuring stations available on loan and the operations thereof are contracted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning to a contractor. These stations are situated in George, Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn. In George, the station is operational since August 2010 at the grounds of a municipal swimming pool and monitors the parameters of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, trioxygen O, carbon monoxide, particulate matter of 10 micrometres or less in diameter (PM10), wind direction, solar radiation and rainfall. This station reports a low incidence, if any, where the ambient air quality standards are exceeded. In Mossel Bay the air quality monitoring station is located on the premises of the GRDM offices in Ext 23 since January 2009. The station also reports a very low incidence, if any, where the ambient air quality standards are exceeded. In Oudtshoorn, the air quality monitoring station is on the grounds of the Bongolethu Clinic and has been operational since April 2011. This station reports frequent incidents where the World Health Organisation (WHO) odour limit is exceeded with odour-causing compounds resulting in complaints, such as hydrogen sulphide (H2S), mercaptans, trimethylamine (TMA) Nie TMA nie want dit kom net van vismeelfabrieke af) and naphthalene.
LAQS is of the opinion that the current long-term air quality monitoring activities should be maintained at the current levels and approach, but that focused short-term monitoring projects should be carried out where the dispersion modelling results indicate potential problem areas. This, however, implies that the individual municipalities must budget for the cost involved, such as possibly procuring sufficient equipment as well as the analytical skills that may be involved.
Section 24 of the SA Constitution states that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing, and to have the environment protected through reasonable legislation and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation.
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