BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
SWISS-based cement maker Lafarge Holcim local unit, Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe was last week ordered to cease operations at its Harare plant by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) on charges of discharging abnormal dust emissions to the environment.
EMA environmental education and publicity manager Amkela Sidange said following engagements with the company operations resumed but under very strict conditions.
“The agency observed that the plant was repeatedly discharging dust emissions that are abnormal and generating fugitive dust from the kiln stack and the surrounding plant. To that end, an order was served to Lafarge to cease operations at the kiln stack until all areas of concern have been rectified to the satisfaction of the agency,” Sidange said.
Also contained in the order was for the plant to put in place a system that notifies the relevant affected stakeholders and surrounding community in the event of new developments likely to affect them and their environment, or in the event that an incident has occurred.
“Following rigorous engagements and considerations, the agency has since made a variation to the order by allowing LaFarge Cement to resume kiln stack operations but under very strict conditions; and to comply with the conditions of the initial order served,” Sidange said.
“One of the conditions is that LaFarge should submit to the agency after every 14 days, returns detailing the daily average concentration of dust emissions from the kiln following the commencement of the operations, including fall out dust at locations to be set up in consultation with the agency.”
Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe said it experienced an unexpected surge in dust emissions during a trial of alternative fuel in the plant between July 30 and August 1, adding that immediate action was taken to control and contain the emissions and the incident was reported to EMA in line with regulatory requirements.
“We then received a directive from the authority to stop operations earlier in the week and we immediately complied. Subsequent to this, EMA officials came to our site to conduct investigations after which the directive was reviewed subject to the company fulfilling a set of conditions,” Lafarge said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, Lafarge has been in constant engagements with the local communities and we have made commitments on a number of actions which are already underway to ensure that a similar incident does not occur again.”
According to Lafarge, the plant recently embarked on a trial study to see how best to incorporate saw dust disposal into its processes, as well as how to determine optimum consumption rate. As a result of this trial, abnormal air emission discharge was generated, thereby polluting the environment, and putting the health of the public at risk.
EMA said it serves no genuine purpose for industry to adopt trials that put the environment and public health at risk, but companies should always ensure their production lines are water tight to avoid any such detrimental leakages into the environment
It also called upon industry as a whole to always carry out activities in line with the conditions of their EIA certificates, and to always notify the agency in good time of any change in the project.
EMA urged the industry to adopt best practises in production that prevent pollution, and contribute to a clean, safe and healthy environment for all and are able to sustain an empowered society in line with vision 2030, and beyond.
“In the meantime, the agency will continue to closely monitor activities at LaFarge to ensure all conditions of the order are complied with; and prevent further environmental pollution, and ensure that surrounding communities of Mabvuku, Manresah and beyond are safe,” Sidange said.