Following power supplier Eskom’s objection to a notice demanding compliance in terms of their Kendal coal power station in Mpumalanga, which has been under fire for alleged environmental offences.
Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said on Monday 18 May that her department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) would continue to impose a compliance notice signed on 12 December, ordering the facility to halt operations at one of the units in the next 30 days.
The order to shut down the troublesome Unit 1 and 5 has been the subject of a back-and-forth round of negotiations between Eskom and the Department, with several extensions to the deadline having been granted.
Eskom claimed that after a four-month shutdown for maintenance and rectification work on the electrostatic precipitator (ESP) of Kendal Unit 1 on 2 November 2018, the unit had been operating with particulate emissions below the mandatory limit of 100 mg/Nm3 after being resynchronised to the grid on 29 March 2019.
DEFF dispute this, insisting that the level of particulate emissions remain well above the mandatory levels.
In a statement on 30 April 2019, Eskom said they were aware of the breaches and had begun a process of maintenance to mend the issues.
“Eskom acknowledges the environmental breaches emanating from its operation of the Kendal power station, and is in the process of mending technical faults that led to them. This however, will take some time to be completed as a significant amount of repair work is required.”
In a new order issued on Monday, Creecy has ordered the following:
Creecy said that she is “mindful of the fact that failure to take action to bring [Kendal] back into compliance … will continue to present serious environmental impacts and health threats to the affected communities.”
Thomas Mnguni, groundWork’s Community Campaigner said that Eskom’s planned continuation of existing plants under the current safety frameworks until as far in the future as 2044 are unacceptable.
“Although Minister Creecy’s decision gives Eskom more time to comply, her decision sends an important signal to Eskom that the dangerous health impacts of its emissions are unacceptable,”
“Kendal is just one of Eskom’s power stations, and not even one of its older plants – Eskom currently plans to operate this plant until 2044”, said Mnguni.
“Eskom’s complete inability to comply with its permit conditions at this plant, despite the fatal consequences for the people of the Highveld, demonstrates why Eskom’s dirty, non-compliant coal plants cannot be part of a Just Transition or a Just Recovery from COVID-19.”
Should Eskom not comply with the latest directive, Creecy warned that she would not hesitate to revoke Kendal’s operating licence in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.