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Shocking charges of serious environmental offences by Eskom

Data supplied by utility described as a ‘gross misrepresentation’ – and no sign of action plan called for by government.
Kendal Power Station. A study commissioned by Eskom itself indicates that its coal-burning activity in Mpumalanga has significant health impacts and results in more than 300 premature deaths a year. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

Shocking charges against Eskom in respect of serious environmental offences at Kendal Power Station have come to light.

This follows an application for information made by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia).

The charges against Eskom are made in a so-called Compliance Notice issued on December 10, 2019, in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff), headed by Minister Barbara Creecy.

The charges concern the alleged failure of Eskom’s Kendal Power Station to comply with the provisions of the law since 2015 in respect of its particulate emissions into the atmosphere.

The Paia application by CER on February 3 this year requested a copy of the Compliance Notice, as well as a range of other documents relating to maintenance and decommissioning plans at Kendal and other Eskom coal-fired power stations.

The Compliance Notice demands that Eskom shut down two 600 megawatt (MW) generator units (Units 1 and 5) at Kendal Power Station within 30 days until further notice.

Furthermore, the Notice requires Eskom to submit a “Plan of Action” compiled by a suitably qualified independent specialist indicating the measures that will be taken to ensure the remaining four units (Units 2, 3, 4 and 6) operate within the conditions of their atmospheric emission licences.

Extension granted

The date for Eskom to meet the demands of the Compliance Notice was subsequently extended by the department at the request of Eskom from January 10 (ie. 30 days from December 10, 2019) to January 31.

In the meantime, Creecy has since suspended the compliance action while she considers Eskom’s objections and application to oppose the Compliance Notice, a procedure allowed for in Nema.

The Compliance Notice reveals Eskom’s claims that after a four-month shutdown for maintenance and rectification work on the electrostatic precipitator (ESP) of Kendal Unit November 1 and 2, 2018, the unit had subsequently been operating with particulate emissions below the mandatory limit (of 100mg/Nm3) after being resynchronised to the grid on March 29, 2019.

The department disputes this.

It says that, on the contrary, Kendal Unit 1 exceeded the mandatory limit for all the months following the four-month ESP repair and maintenance shutdown detailed above, reaching particulate emissions as high as 1 312mg/Nm3 after being resynchronised subsequent to the shutdown.

It goes on to say that data presented by Eskom in respect of Kendal Unit 5 is a “gross misrepresentation of the facts”, and that Eskom knowingly and deliberately applies wrong calculation methodology in its submissions which “puts the entire data presented and the claimed [emission] reductions in question”.

Damning conclusions

The department further concludes that “to date [December 10, 2019] none of the commitments made/action plans submitted to the Department have resulted in any of the units [at Kendal] being in compliance with the 100 mg/Nm3 limit”, and that “the Department does not believe that the current action plans will result in compliance”.

To date, Eskom has still not provided the action plan called for by the department in its Compliance Notice of December 10, 2019.

Unit 1 at Kendal was again taken down for ESP repairs in January/February 2020, and is now back in service, with Eskom still claiming that it is operating below its 100 mg/Nm3 limit for particulate emissions.

Kendal Unit 5 remains down since January 2020 undergoing a major ESP upgrade and other opportunistic maintenance.

Kendal Units 1, 2, 3 and 4 are currently running, with Unit 5 still undergoing major repairs, and Unit 6 due to return to service in May 2020.

Health impacts and premature deaths continue

In the meantime, the premature deaths and serious negative health impacts of particulate (PM2.5 and PM10) and toxic gas (NOx and SO2) emissions on residents, workers and poor communities resulting from the burning of coal at Kendal and other Eskom coal-fired power stations in Mpumalanga continue unabated.

A recent study commissioned by Eskom itself indicates that burning of coal in its power stations results in significant health impacts and more than 300 premature deaths a year.

It is therefore clear that persons, families and communities in Mpumalanga and further afield suffer significant damages from Eskom’s pollution, including chronic illness, and the loss of life, ability to work and income.

The Compliance Notice issued by the department avers to a specific offence listed on Section 51(1)(g) of the Air Quality Act, namely that “a person is guilty of an offence if that person supplies false or misleading information to an air quality officer”.

In this case, it appears that false and misleading information was allegedly submitted by Eskom to the Deff Directorate: Air Quality Management.

Eskom warned of other offences

The Compliance Notice also specifically lists and warns Eskom of a number of other offences that Eskom may be subject to.

These include:

  • Failure to comply with the compliance notice;
  • Failure to comply with a condition or requirement of its atmospheric emission licence; and
  • Emission of pollutants in concentrations above the limits specified in its atmospheric emission licence.

The Compliance Notice further warns that a person convicted of an offence referred to in Section 51 of the Air Quality Act is liable to a fine not exceeding R10 million rand, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both the fine and imprisonment.

Chris Yelland is managing director of EE Business Intelligence.


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I often drive to Dullstroom pat Witbank. It’s a disgrace and looks much worse than the UK, some years ago.

Yet South African’s will rave about the beautiful country and fresh air and the bushveld – forgetting they are living in one of the most polluted countries in the world in terms of air and water. SOxs and NOxs are above limits in the Kruger National Park even – yet the impressionable love to go out to the ‘bush’ (paved over camp) and to ‘breathe that fresh air’. Clearly they don’t get out much.

….should read ”past”

‘’Fanks’’, but No ‘’Fanks’’ for nuclear!

I worked In Bergen, Norway in 1986 and remember how they had to slaughter their reindeers after Chernobyl – it was catastrophic!
Thirty years ago, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster took place, releasing massive amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, which drifted across much of Russia and Europe.

Today, Sami (indigenous people who live in areas of Scandinavia and the Arctic )reindeer herders in central Norway are still affected by the fallout, as their herds feed on contaminated lichen, mosses, and mushrooms – all plants that readily absorb and retain radioactive contaminants.
Reindeer meat is a mainstay in the Scandinavian diet. The meat from one reindeer currently fetches around $400 for the Sami herders. But only if the deer isn’t too radioactive to eat. Even though Norwegian authorities enforce a relatively high contamination limit for food (3,000 Becquerel’s per kilogram—compared to the EU limit of 600), some years—even as recently as 2014—reindeer pulled aside for slaughter have to be released back into the wild because they are too radioactive.

The ‘’powers that be’’ in sunny SA, or is it, nincompoops, just don’t seem to care about the Eskom disaster that has been unfolding fir years – just like the USSR, back in 1986.

Yelland’s war against coal continues. This is a war against economic progress and cheap reliable electricity in the complete absence of an alternative. One has to wonder what vested interests in coal’s demise he has, if any? I shall have to look into this sometime. Yelland aside, the ANC is at war with the ANC demanding that 1200MW be withdrawn from the grid. You can’t make this stuff up. What 1200MW will do to an already compromised grid cannot be good especially post lock down. One has to marvel at the mess they have made of it all.

That aside, the biggest environmental mess ever made was by the Soviet Union. The most polluted town in the world is Karabash in Russia where it rains arsenic from the smelter to this day. There is massive widespread radiation principally 90Sr and 137Cs from Chernobyl and numerous other nuclear mishaps. Why one may ask? simply because there was no accountability then and as with the ANC there is none now. In a similar vein there is no accountability for the hundreds of billions stolen by the ANC.

There is only one solution. Privatise the mess. Sell the power stations to the highest bidder with an acceptable and realistic environmental plan. When the power stations become wealth generating, it is a whole lot easier to comply with environmental concerns. Eskom has no money left as it destroys wealth and requires taxpayer bailouts on an ongoing basis. It’s costs exceed its revenue. Let’s be honest: There are negative externalities associated with using coal for power generation (SO2, fly ash). These need to be responsibly managed as in other countries. A farmer once told me that fly ash is very good for mielies and having the mielies downwind of the stack is simply marvellous growing conditions. So there may be positive externalities as well. I am not sure about this one, though.

The Chernobyl disaster was the beginning of the end for the USSR. Maybe the Eskom disaster will be the beginning of the end for the Tripartite Alliance and communism in South Africa. The bankruptcy of the USSR led to the fall of the Berlin Wall that separated communism and capitalism. Hopefully, the bankruptcy of the ANC-led government will lead to the fall of the BEE wall that separates communism from capitalism and that enables the plundering of the latter to support the former. We have reached our “Margaret Thatcher moment” where the state has run out of other people’s money.

If they had any understanding, they would plead with the free market to solve their problems, implying that they will privatise everything. We got into this situation because they have a complete lack of understanding. Therefore, what is logical and straight-forward to you and me, is an enigma to them.

Not at all convinced that “Private Enterprise” is the proven answer!

If that were really the case, then things in the good Ole USA would be going swimmingly.

Their power geration, and particularly the reticulation, seems a hodgepodge, uncoordinated mess. Much likes LOTS of other stuff in that wonderful (not!) exemplar of the pinnacle of private enterprise.

Contrast this embarrassing mess with the situation in France, where nuclear power has been very well managed by the State.

The remarks about Cherbonyl are made from the benefits of hindsight. Nuclear technology is powerful, but dangerous until its well understood.

Unfortunately, the science of safe engineering usually comes directly from serious accidents caused by assumptions not fully understood by the original designers at the time.

As in all fields, this (sometimes Painfully) accumulation of reliable knowledge eventually improves to the point that dangerous technologies become safe to use. This observation not restricted to just nuclear stuff. Think medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines, just for the current topic du jour.

So it is with future nuclear power.

Burning coal (or anything), and thinking it OK to emit pollutants into the atmosphere any more, is a practice whose time has now passed.

That fact needs to be recognized now as the new credo!

We should all be at war against coal especially if we have children…unless you are a climate change denialist.

And what do you use to make electricity with? Nuclear is perhaps the way to go?

Have a look at Michael Moore – Planet of The Humans. On You Tube.

The answer is simple: 1) Shut down the old pollution-spewing power stations 2) Encourage the widespread use of renewables – we have some of the world’s best solar and wind-power. 3) Retrain Eskom workers to install PV power.
If anyone disagrees with the critical need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, they haven’t been watching Attenborough’s TV series. We are messing up our world with CO2 emissions. And we WILL pay the price. Watch, in the next decade or two, how rising sea levels will begin to destroy seaside towns. It IS going to happen, people. And yet it doesn’t have to.

Well you forgot to blame coal for the corona virus …

Renewables are intermittent. Solar energy is a farce, very limited lifespan. Carbon footprint is massive. Same with wind turbines.
Use coal but clean it up.

Chris Stoffel. The issue with renewables is supplying the right amount of power, at the right time at the right price. Renewable fanatics will always quote how cheap they are but will never mention the dead calm 6am Gauteng morning or evening when I need to make breakfast or dinner. The wind ain’t blowing and the sun ain’t shining. This issue is one of storage. South Australia produces more kWh than it needs- at the wrong time. It is therefore highly irresponsible to promote renewables as a solution when they are not. With renewables comes a backup i.e. double the capital cost. Guess who pays? a. the Judge Judy, b. The tooth fairy, C. The man on the moon, D. The consumer?

The costs of the pollution on public health is far more than the cost to operate a plant properly. Strange how other countries can get it right. Guess you don’t have to breath that air in.

You whine about pollution and lack of oversight in Russia, yet you cry when someone is holding eskom responsible for the same things. You really haven’t thought your position through.

And when the GDP drops because the electricity shutdowns cause Industry outputs because the environmentalist complain the power stations are bad for environment..who accounts for the bigger budget deficit.. which will result in raise in taxes to try and make budget balance..the country is furthur downgraded as more loans must be obtained to fund the falling GDP because of insufficient supply of electricity

I don’t think the ANC is the problem, but a symptom. It’s the voters that choose ANC.

Why do voters choose communism? because of education. People are educated that the West/Imperialism/WMC/whatever is the cause of their suffering. Their choices are to choose those that say that they will help them, which is ANC/EFF and their communism/socialism viewpoint and that the USSR/Cuba/NKorea were all supporters of the regimes that put ANC into power.

So our efforts would need to be to give all South African’s a viable alternative to communism/socialism that improves social standards for the majority. Only then will you reverse a decline seen across all of these communistic countries.

The big joke is that with effect from 1 June 2019, we are all subject to a carbon tax. However, Eskom which is by far the biggest producer of greenhouse gasses, gets an exemption in phase one, but in 2023 phase two kicks in for them. Eskom’s carbon tax bill is estimated to be at R11.5bn, per annum. We all know they cannot pay it since they already have debts of R450bn, so I am sure the ANC government will give them an extension again (if Eskom still exists in 2023). Meanwhile the rest of us suckers will have to pay carbon tax in order to force us to ” change our behaviour and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions” or whatever….

Very few if any, SOE’s and state departments adhere to Health & Safety or financial regulations. No state oversight at all.

Seeing as EKSDOM is essentially owned by the ANC, is the ANC going to investigate itself and find itself not guilty – as always?

It is not owned by the ANC. I know you like to think so, but that is why you aren’t taken seriously and you are a failed self publisher. So hot takes!

@ Jalap – Why so triggered 😉


Why you mad, bro?

State intervention performing as expected.

I am so happy that all this environmental nonsense and bunny hugging will finally take a backseat while people are forced to focus on real issues like helping those who are starving and poor…

If you want to save the environment then live in the nude under a tree and plant your own vegetables for food… Stop being idiots and selectively fighting for what you think is beneficial and correct…

End of comments.





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