South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Illovo Sugar Pollution Problems

Press Release, Wednesday, 22 June 2000

Embargo: Immediate

Residents in the Merebank community located directly opposite the Illovo Sugar have been complaining repeatedly of serious air and noise pollution problems.

Serious odour complaints have been reported. The description of odours are that of a sour, yeasty, acidic smell. These smells are a daily occurrence together with a dewy drizzle.

The following effects have been associated with the air pollution:
1. Health effects: coughing, tightness in chest and burning eyes.
2. Household effects: a blackish yellow residue on furniture, curtains and carpets.

Also reported is that of noise emanating from the plant especially during the night causing extreme disturbances. The following noises have been noted: steam - loud engine sound, pump - gushing sound, hammer/drilling sound.

Since February 2000, residents have attempted to lodge complaints through Illovo's toll-free number (0800-330-400), only to find that the number was invalid. Thereafter attempts to lodge complaints were made via the security control room. However, responses to pollution complaints were never received by the community.

On the 25th May 2000, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, in offering support to the community, forwarded a letter to Mr Riddle, the general manager of Illovo reporting our dismay on the disconnection of the toll-free complaints number without notice to the community. We requested that llovo Sugar provide us with information regarding the disconnection of the toll-free line, the failure to report this to the community, the inability of the control room to deal with pollution complaints together with emission and noise reports and monitoring data. On the 26th May 2000, we received a response from the factory manager, Mr Sandy Turbaro, who confirmed that the toll-free number had been changed to 0800-333-400 with notice to the community. However residents disagree saying they were never informed of this. Mr Tubaro's response to SDCEA's request for information on the emission releases and noise pollution was that "no chemicals were used by the company". Shocked at this statement, the SDCEA requested that Mr Turbaro put this in writing to the SDCEA.

A follow up letter was sent to Illovo Sugar, noting our dissatisfaction with the lack of a proper response on the issue of noise and air pollution and our alarmed reaction to Mr Tubaro's denial of any chemicals being used on the plant.

We are disturbed by indifferent manner in which Illovo Sugar handles serious pollution complaints and the lack of transparency of a senior management official. It is known that Illovo Sugar is emitting pollutants such as oxides of sulphur, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and other pollutants.

Sulphur Dioxide:
Yellow the leaves of plants, dissolve marble, eat away iron, steel. Affect breathing: high concentrations, irritates upper respiratory tract at even lower concentrations when carried on particulates it appears able to do still greater harm by injuring lung tissue.


Contact person: Michelle Simon
Project Co-ordinator
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)
P.O. Box 211150 [c/o Gouritz Cresent/ Austerville Drive, Austerville]
Tel-fax: +27 31 461-1991