Enraged by refinery fumes

09 April 2013 - 03:29
Chevron   refinery. File photo
Chevron refinery. File photo

People living near an oil refinery in Cape Town owned by the multinational petroleum giant Chevron are coughing up a storm about the black fumes and stench they say are being emitted by the plant.

James Vos, ward councillor for Edgemead and Bothasig, has called on Western Cape authorities to launch an investigation.

Chevron owns the Caltex network of petrol stations. The refinery is just outside Cape Town.

Table View resident Alex Lepnick, who lives just over 2km from the refinery, said he has been battling with the company over emissions for the past five years.

"My two-year-old son is suffering from terrible asthma and I am convinced that Caltex has made a very big contribution to it," said Lepnick.

"What I don't understand is that these companies are making billions so it's peanuts for them to invest in filters but they don't."

Chevron SA spokesman Delight Ngcamu-Aitken said the company invests in "the latest technologies to improve efficiency and environmental performance".

"Chevron places the highest priority on the health and safety of its employees and the communities in which it operates," she said.

"The refinery works closely with the City of Cape Town's environmental authorities and operates with an atmospheric licence."

Andre du Plessis lives 3km from the plant, in Edgemead. He said the city and the province lacked the political will to take on the multinational corporation.

He has lived in the suburb for 24 years and has repeatedly confronted the company about pollution.

"They just continue with what they are doing, making a lot of promises and getting away with the bare minimum standards allowed," he said.

He said residents often wake up to see dark plumes of smoke emitted by a chimney at the plant. The smoke is accompanied by a strong stench.

"Politicians have legislation on their side but nothing happens because this is a multinational corporation."

Vos has written to the MEC for the environment and to the city, and says residents are "losing patience".

"[People in] areas surrounding the refinery, up to several kilometres away, have [often] woken to find a covering of soot on their vehicles, laundry and properties, but the refinery management continues to report that its systems show no significant increase in pollution," said Vos.