Wentworth/ Merebank Community Surrounded By Harmful Fumes

Living in close proximity to a plant can pose various risks should an accident or leak occur. While the most dangerous of these accidents is a full-blown plant explosion, similar to the one that occurred at Engen in December 2020, other accidents can be harmful to residents of the community, such as water contamination and air pollution.

It is common knowledge that Wentworth and Merebank residents live, work, and play under constant threat from chemical facilities, which, at any time, could release toxic gas or explode. 

Last week a cloud of foul-smelling fumes released by one of the chemical plants in Jacobs, passed over parts of Wentworth, prompting many  people to call authorities complaining of the smell of rotten eggs or sulphur. The chemical compound, hydrogen sulphide is said to have this characteristic odour.

The combination of Volatile Organic Compounds and Chlorine Dioxide have been described as smelling like  cat urine, which is also an odour that has been detected by residents for a long time

Disgruntled Wentworth resident Daryl Duane Williams lamented; “I live in Tuin Road Wentworth which is much closer to the bottom of Wentworth near Chamberlain Road. There are many factories situated in that area however, it is merely impossible to determine the source of this pollution.

This occurrence is very far from a once off issue. It has been happening for months but for the last 2 weeks I started timing the stench and it has been happening mostly in the evenings  between 6 and 8pm. 

My wife is 7 months pregnant and last night it became unbearable for her to tolerate. I was told that sulphur smells like rotten egg and that’s exactly what it smells like. 

It is in the air for 30 minutes or slightly longer before subsiding. 

I ask myself why only in the evenings when most people would assume that all authorities will be closed to report and then completely forget about it the next day before it’s back again.

So last night I reached out to the community to obtain the relevant authorities contact details so that i can report it and to obtain a reference number for doing so. 

It is so bad that as soon as it hits…everybody is out trying to figure out where this stench is coming from? 

I am concerned with the fact that my kids could develop breathing problems or even cancer. I know somebody personally who was born with a limb under developed due to air contamination whilst she was in the womb and so naturally, I fear this happening now as my wife is currently pregnant.

We tend to leave such things like leaking pipes, potholes or unkept parks and recreation plots slide knowing that nothing ever gets done about it but this one I am not going to keep quiet for because it is extremely harmful for my family and my entire community”

In another incident, on 13 March there was a recurrence of a chemical, or oil spill in Basil February Road.

Improper loading or maintenance of the tank can lead to spills or leaks of an oil tanker’s cargo, which can, in turn, cause a collision. Oil or gas that spills from a tanker truck can also create a hazard for other vehicles on the road, even after the tanker has left the scene.

Environmental agencies claim that simply living near a chemical plant puts individuals at risk of contamination and disease exposure. While efforts for promoting a clean industry are always being improved, the risks remain as long as humans are charged with operating the machinery. Equipment malfunction and human error can quickly lead to a chemical spill that contaminates natural resources relied upon by the community.

By: Lorraine Richards

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