PRESS RELEASE - 18 September 2006
Pietermaritzburg residents say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
On Wednesday, 20 September, groundWork is hosting a public
meeting at Thembalethu Community Education Centre at 206 Burger
Street, at 17:30 hrs to call on Pietermaritzburg residents
to mobilize and take action against industrial pollution in
During this past year, and particularly this winter, groundWork
has received numerous calls from residents in Pietermaritzburg
who have requested that groundWork take action against the
ongoing pollution in the area and government’s inability
to deal affectively with the perpetrators causing this pollution.
groundWork has taken air samples throughout the city over
the last few years to assist the city officials to get a better
understanding of the air pollution problems and the evidence
has pointed to the fact that people in Pietermaritzburg are
exposed to an unacceptable levels of pollution which is impacting
upon their health. Chemicals found in the air sampling to
date have been Benzene, Toloene, m,p-Xylene, Chlorobenzene,
Chloroethane, and Chloromethane, hydrogen sulphide, Ethyl
Benzene, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Tetrachloroethane, and Styrene.
Some of these chemicals were elevated above health threshold
levels and international standards. These results were not
The historical reality is that Pietermaritzburg has had a
pollution problem which neither the City or District, nor
the Air Quality Forum have alleviated in any meaningful way.
Trish Collocott, a resident challenging air pollution for
many years, says that “there is an oil refinery smell
that has an offensive and physical odour. Since last year,
there is now also a new ammonia (like cat urine) smell which
is experienced in different parts of the City depending on
the direction of the wind”. Trish states that “It’s
high time that PMB residents put their foot down and refuse
to put up with any more of this pollution.
Over the years, residents in Pietermaritzburg have made numerous
complaints to the City, yet the political will to invest in
abating the pollution problem does not exist. Sandile Ndawonde,
of Greater Edendale Environmental Network (GREEN): “Pollution
does cause ill health, and we know where the pollution is
coming from it does not take a scientist to figure this out.”
It is particularly during the winter months that the ‘City
of Choice’ becomes a bowl of chemical soup where people
are forced to close their windows and stay indoors as the
City’s industries choose to belch out their sulphur
and other toxic chemicals into the lungs of the community,
totally unrestrained and unabated. Hard luck if you have to
get to work or take kids to school that morning, after all
the officials have no enforcement authority and it appears
that industries have carte blanche to operate as they please
- after all no one has even seen their operating permits .
Investigations in south Durban and the Vaal Triangle have
presented clear evidence that the industrial pollution in
these areas is having a significant impact on peoples’
health, especially children. In South Durban the cancer risk
is 250 times the accepted norm 
and 52% of local learners have some form of asthma .
In the Vaal Triangle industrial emissions are responsible
for 65% of the chronic bronchitis .
According to Siziwe Khanyile, groundWork’s Air Quality
Campaigner, “The health of our children is our priority,
and we urge school staff to attend the meeting, to join families,
residents and other civil society organizations to develop
plans to challenge the political leadership to respond to
our call for an environment that is not harmful to our health
- Siziwe Khanyile, groundWork: 033 3425662 and 073 8308173
- Trish Collocott, PMB resident: 082 4636447 and 033 3421838
- Sandile Ndawonde, GREEN: 033 2606233 and 084 5216370
 groundWork have requested the permit
for FFS Refinery and local government has not got a copy of
the permit. The Chief Air Pollution Officer has refused to
give the local authority the permit.
 This was the conclusion of a health
risk assessment that was undertaken by the University of Michigan
(USA) in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Medical School,
which was commissioned by the eThekwini Municipality.
 The Settlers Primary School Health Study,
 Sourgie, Y. (2004) “Air Quality
Situation Assessment for the Vaal Triangle Region.”