The South African government has contracted environmental monitoring company SI Analytics to measure the pollution levels for the five-year, R12,5-million Highveld priority area project, which started in August 2008.
The areas of eastern Gauteng and western Mpumalanga are the second priority area, after the Vaal triangle, as these exceed ambient air-quality standards and negatively impact on air quality and human health.
The Highveld priority area was declared an air pollution hot spot in terms of Section 18(1) of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act of 2004. Air-quality management initiatives had to be considered to tackle the challenge of pollution, such as the establishment of air monitoring stations to provide a better indication of current air quality.
SI Analytics director Mark Rowand explains that solutions to pollution can only be found after the damage has been measured and the results compared over time.
The five sites that were selected for the new stations are situated at Wesselton, in Ermelo; Kwa Zamo Kuhle, in Hendrina; Aerorand, in Middelburg; eMbalenhle, in Secunda; and KwaGuqa, in Witbank. He says that the amount of industrial and domestic fuel-burning emissions that impact on high-density residential areas as well as the physical limitations and location of existing monitoring stations was taken into account during selection.
Wesselton was identified as an area where ambient air-quality monitoring is required because of numerous complaints from the public of respiratory problems owing to the emissions from trucks transporting coal travelling through the town. There have also been allegations of polluted air from towns as far as Secunda when the wind blows from the west.
The Tusiville Clinic site, in Wesselton, was considered the most appropriate, as it is well situated to monitor emissions and resultant pollutant concentrations from fuel being burned for domestic use, coal trucks, transport trucks and long-range transport from industrial areas to the west.
The residential area of Kwa Zamo Kuhle was identified as an area having a high frequency of excess particles measuring 10 μm or less than the daily average standard, as well as the yearly average of sulphur dioxide concentrations.
Rowand asserts that the Tsiki-Naledi secondary school, in Kwa Zamo Kuhle, will provide a good indication of ambient air quality in the town of Hendrina, as there are no direct sources near to the school. There is also no direct influence of domestic fuel burning as the school is in a built-up area.
The Aerorand residential area, in Middel-burg, was selected primarily to measure the impact of mining and industrial emissions on the town of Aerorand, as several complaints have been documented from residents in this area.
The Middelburg Christian school, in Aerorand, is well situated in terms of proximity to large industrial sources like Columbus Steel and Middelburg Ferrochrome. The most significant challenges in the area are particulate matter from industries in the south and the large mine dumps to the north-west. The area is not, however, directly impacted on by the burning of domestic fuel.
In Secunda, eMbalenhle was the chosen site owing to the extensive use of fuel sources, such as coal for heating and cooking purposes, and the impacts associated with Sasol to the east. The Sasol Club, in eMbalenhle is the most appropriate measurement site, as it is ideally situated to measure domestic fuel burning emissions from neighbouring households. It is located only about 7 km west of Sasol and is very secure with large open areas.
The residential area of KwaGuqa, next to Witbank, will determine ambient pollutant concentrations resulting from domestic fuel burning, transportation-related emissions and, in particular, industrial and mining- related emissions. A number of sites were considered, with Elukhanyisweni High school, in KwaGuqa, identified as the most appropriate and representing a secure site near the industrial Ferrobank area.
Each of the five sites consists of a 3-m × 2-m × 2,4-m shelter and a 10-m mast in a concrete plinth surrounded by 1,8-m palisade security fencing. Precision meteorological instruments company RM Young’s meteorological equipment for the measurement of wind speed and direction, ambient temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, solar radiation and barometric pressure has been installed at all the sites.
Rowand says that tangible solutions to air pollution in the area may be found after about three years of background measurement and comparison.