Steely solution sought

Mayor Dan Plato met with Kuils River residents to talk about a steel plant that is reportedly making residents sick.

A man coughed up blood in front of Mayor Dan Plato to show him that a Kuils River steel plant is making residents sick and should be closed.

The residents told Mr Plato at a meeting at the Kuils River council chamber last week that they want the Cape Town Iron and Steel Works Company (CISCO) closed until solutions are found to curb air and noise pollution.

Things got heated when Mr Plato proposed batting the issue on to national government because the City had “exhausted all avenues with numerous noise and emission testing, only to come back and say that the company does comply”.

The City could do more testing, but the problem would remain, he said. “I am not here to waste anybody’s time, so my alternative solution is to take this matter up with national government so that we can get some answers and bring peace to the residents,” said Mr Plato.

About 13 of the 42 residents at the meeting raised their hands, perturbed at his suggestion.

Community leader Earl Polman said: “It was the national department who had welcomed the reopening of Cisco in the first place. How can we take our grievances to them?”

In May last year, Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel celebrated Cisco’s reopening after eight years, with Turkish owners, DHT Holdings (“Residents take aim at Cisco,” Northern News, June 6 2018).

Cisco was established in the 1960s and operated under Murray and Roberts until 2010.

During the company’s shutdown period from 2010 to 2018, housing developments mushroomed in Kuils River, with some residents being as close as 70 meters from the steel plant.

Residents now complaining about the ill-effects of having Cisco as a neighbour are from Vredelust, Jagtershof, St Duma’s, Highbury and Silver Oaks.

Residents say they’ve been suffering from sore throats, sinusitis and skin conditions since Cisco started operating 24 hours a day.

Lauren Bernado said residents had asked the City to investigate potential health risks from the air pollution.

“The City has only made an arrangement to sort out the noise issues. What about our children and elderly people whose health is deteriorating? But there are still no answers for us.”

Another resident, Sidney van der Colff, jumped up while coughing blood onto a piece of paper, which he showed to Mr Plato.

“See this is what the pollution is doing to our bodies. I have been coughing up blood since Cisco reopened. My medical aid allowance has been exhausted because I visit the doctor more than twice a week.”

In January last year, the City’s environmental health department recorded sound-pressure readings of 11 decibels. The legal limit is seven.

The meeting heard that the City had served a notice on Cisco to reduce the noise, and then took them to court last year after claiming that the company hadn’t complied with that notice. Cisco was found then found guilty in the Blue Downs Magistrate’s Court of

contravening the Western Cape Noise Control Regulations. But Cisco have appealed the court’s ruling and will next argue their case on May 22.

Meanwhile, residents have established a non-profit organisation, Save Kuils River Environmental Action Group, to take legal action against Cisco over the air-pollution issue.

And a Jagtershof resident, who did not want to be named, said he had placed seven dust buckets outside the plant and sent the contents for testing at a laboratory, costing R2400 for each bucket.

The lab reports, seen by Northern News, confirm the presence of lead and manganese in the dust.

Dr Shahieda Adams, from UCT’s faculty of health sciences, said being exposed to high levels of lead could cause damage to the brain or kidneys and harm foetuses.

“Being exposed to lead can have negative effects on humans, especially children and their development. Children can face lead poisoning” she said.

High levels of exposure to manganese could affect a child’s development, especially walking and their speech.

Highbury Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association chairman Edmund Du Plooy said at least three residents had threatened to stop paying rates and taxes because their homes had cracks in them and shook when there were explosions at Cisco.

“Our residents lose sleep and have to patch up cracks in the wall before winter comes. Cisco makes us search deeper into our pockets, while they are making money.”

He said Cisco had still run during the 2-hour-long Eskom power cuts last month.

Cisco’s general manager, Heinrich Kriel,said the firm met regularly with residents to discuss air pollution, and Cisco complied with the requirements of its Provisional Atmospheric Emission Licence (PAEL), including making adjustments to the plant.

“An emissions monitoring system was installed in our main third fume plant since December 2018 with results continuously well within the limits. A second system will be installed in the first fume plant in June this year. Continuous dust fall-out monitoring measurements are being implemented on the outside areas,” he said, adding that the company was looking at further ways to cut emissions.

However, regarding noise, he said, “Cisco will be arguing our case at court on May 22, because we were operating within our (PAEL) which governed our compliance requirements.”

Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodeen said a draft study by an independent specialist appointed by Cisco had found further ways the company could reduce noise, and Cisco was acting on those.

Cn rk Cisco 1- Dust buckets have been placed outside the Cisco plant.

Cn rk Cisco 2- Earl Polman, raised his concerns in last week’s meeting with Mayor Dan Plato.

Cn rk Cisco 3- Mayor Dan Plato met with Kuils River residents on Thursday, April 11.

cn rk Cisco 4- Sidney Van Der Colff of Highbury showed us his blood sample.