The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has refused an integrated environmental authorisation application by State-owned power utility Eskom to build a new 30-year ash disposal facility at the Kendal power station, in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, on the basis of insufficient mitigation of potentially detrimental environmental impacts.
"The Wetland Offset Strategy does not meet wetland offset targets as per the requirements of the second additional information requested and the offset land is not secured (not sterilised from future mining). The alternatives indicated by Eskom, like taking over wastewater treatment works in the catchment and making it compliant, are not feasible for enhancing the ecological category of the catchment," the DFFE said in a statement on May 4.
The DFFE, in consultation with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), requested additional information pertaining specifically to the proposed wetland offset to be submitted to the departments in support of the application.
The final environmental-impact report (EIR) does not address recommendations as stated in a February 24, 2020, request for additional information and the recommendations still stand and should be complied with, the DFFE said in a notice to interested and affected parties.
The notice stated that the proposed listed activities will conflict with the general objectives of integrated environmental management stipulated in the National Environmental Management Act and that any potentially detrimental environmental impacts resulting from the listed activities may not be mitigated to acceptable levels and should, therefore, be prevented altogether.
"The final EIR, in its current form, is not adequate to make an informed decision on the application and the environmental authorisation is accordingly refused," the statement reads.
Eskom detailed the proposed project in an April 2016 report, noting that the area to the north of the existing ash disposal facility (ADF) has been extended and optimised to receive the ash under the Kendal Continuous ADF Project.
The conceptual engineering designs indicate that ash may be accommodated at the existing Kendal ADF site until October 2031 and thereafter an alternative site would need to be licensed to receive ash up to the end of 2058, hence the Kendal power station 30-year ADF project.
Engineering and environmental consultancy JG Afrika undertook the basic and detailed design of a pollution control dam complex, as well as a clean water dam complex. These are earth-fill dams with an engineered barrier, lining the basin and slopes. Silt traps are to be located upstream to contain most of the silt that is still suspended in the inflow streams.
"In addition to these works, we were tasked with modifying an existing farm dam wall by lowering the existing dam wall to disconnect it from other water bodies upstream. The dam is required to maintain the downstream wetland as far as is reasonably possible through seepage at a rate that will sustain the current conditions in the wetland," JG Afrika said in an overview of the Kendal Continuous ADF project on its website.