Steel company under fire
24 November 2016
. . . residents want operations halted
. . . EMA steps in
Residents of Houghton Park have called for the shutting down of Steel Brands, a company located in their neighbourhood, saying the massive smoke and soot produced from the smelting of metal is posing serious health risks.
The residents, in conjunction with Houghton Park Primary School, made a complaint to the City of Harare and the Environmental Management Agency.
In their joint petition, the residents and the school officials said “the company causes air pollution and noise pollution, our main concern is the smelting of metal which is emitting harmful smoke.
“This is a hazard to the residents’ health.
“These fumes lead to many unwanted consequences because of the many adverse changes in the body from gas vapours.
“The inhalants affect the brain, chest and nervous system. Difficulty in walking or speaking may become apparent. Agitation may follow.
“These gases may result in slurred speech, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, hallucinations or delusions, nausea, vomiting, and losing consciousness.
“Inhaling the fumes robs the body of oxygen, causing hypoxia, which damages cells and tissues throughout the body, permanent rib spasms, brain damage and muscle weakness may result, sudden heart failure and death,” read the petition signed by over 200 residents and school officials.
The residents also argued that when they tried to engage the owners they were told “I can’t help you and you cannot do anything about it.”
One of the residents who declined to be named said “we are not happy with that company, we don’t want that structure there, actually all residents are saying that company should stop all operations, nothing should be done there.
“They should relocate somewhere because vanhu vaneta nacho, actually people are sick, right now we have documents showing that kids have been treated because of the harmful fumes.
“As a community we are saying they should remove their company from there, we don’t want to see it there.”
In their response letter to the residents, Steel Brands apologised for smoke and soot saying “our plant is still under a test run before it is commissioned. As we work to test for the plant’s efficiency our pulverized coal machine had some air leakages which ended up throwing smoke and soot in the factory and to our valued neighbours in Houghton Park.
“So the company has managed to employ a qualified fireman to be in charge of the pulverizers and also we have rectified the smoke and soot leakage problems.
“You will never ever be affected by the said smoke and soot from the plant.
“At the moment we are raising our two chimneys to 45 metres and anticipate that the chimneys will not also affect our neighbours too.
“Steel Brands is kindly asking you to bear with us as we are under studying the severity of the noise from the plant,” read Steel Brand’s response.
Steel Brands further said they would send some of their workers “to assist the affected residents to clean the affected houses and the yards in phases.”
They also promised to donate computers for the school, sponsor a scholarship program for selected less privileged and to employ 50 percent of the workforce from Houghton Park.
EMA spokesperson Steady Kangata said “we came in after residents had told us about their ordeal and we found out that they (Steel Brands) had no Environmental Impact Assessment which is a tool which is needed when such a business venture is to be carried out.
“This is more of an environmental management plan, in other words we are saying they should mitigate or lessen the impact in this case air pollution, they should get that sorted because there is need for air pollution abatement measures.”
Kangata added that before any such operations are given the green light, there is need for it to be regularised as there are supposed to be consultations with “affected and interested stakeholders.”
He added “we encourage other residents to follow the Houghton Park way of alerting us of such issues, we are happy with what they did.”