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Air Quality

5 May 2020 Media Release: Effects of the National Lockdown on Air Quality within the Garden Route District

Media Release: Effects of the National Lockdown on Air Quality within the Garden Route District

For Immediate Release
5 May 2020

The major outdoor (ambient) air pollution contributors in the Garden Route district include industrial activities, vehicle emissions and wood burning for household purposes. Due to the current lock-down, only around 20% of these industries have rendered essential services, while vehicle movement decreased by estimate of between 10 and 25%.

According to the World Health Organisation (2013), ambient air pollution, as annual PM2.5, accounted for 3.1 million deaths and around 3.1% of global disability-adjusted life years and the health effects includes respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity, such as aggravation of asthma and respiratory symptoms.

The lockdown has resulted in a reduction of some air pollutants across the district, but not all pollutants react as immediate as others, for instance, carbon monoxide is known to remain in the atmosphere for a couple of years. It is however estimated that there is a 6% global reduction in carbon dioxide emissions due to countries partially shutting down their economies.

As the cooler winter months, approaches some domestic emissions may increase in the informal residential areas, for example, particulate emissions from woodstoves and fires that are used for household purposes. According to experts, economic recovery will receive priority after the lockdown, even if it is to the detriment of the environment. It is therefore vital that authorities involved in air quality management must continue to strive towards a reduction in emissions.

Air quality in George appears to indicate a general decreasing trend in air pollution between 1 March and 27 April 2020 as seen in figures one and two. These results have undergone quality assurance and are compared with time average concentration limits in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for each criteria pollutant to determine any exceedances or non-compliances with standards.

Demonstrates a decrease in SO2 levels in George, 6µg/m3 to 4µg/m3
Demonstrates a decrease in O3 levels in George, from 12µg/m3 to 2.5 µg/m3

During the development of the GRDM 3rd Generation Air Quality Management Plan, ambient air quality modelling was undertaken in most of the towns in the district. Emissions from industrial activities and traffic were estimated and modelled to identify any possible air quality hotspots for further monitoring. Below are images of dispersion modelling with an estimated 10% of the vehicle data count before the national lock down in Knysna Central Business District and ambient emission with only one listed activity in operation during the NLD in Oudtshoorn.

The impact of industrial activities and vehicle emission are estimated by making use of emission factors obtained from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and modelled by making use of dispersion modelling software.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has developed a country-specific Air Quality Index (AQI) in line with best international practices to simplify the reporting of air quality to the general public. This data can be viewed live by the general public at The AQI is derived from six (i.e. PM10, PM2.5, CO, O3, SO2 and NO2) criteria pollutants, for good air quality (scale 1) to hazardous (10) based on National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Currently, there are three Western Cape Government-owned ambient air quality monitoring stations located in the GRDM, viz. in Mossel Bay, George and Oudtshoorn. The George monitoring station reports live data to the South African Air Quality Information Systems (SAAQIS). The current status in terms of the AQI is one (1 = very good) in George, while for the entire country it is currently 3, which is also considered to be good.

According to satellite images below, obtained from (Copyright (c) 2020 Cameron Beccario 2020), there was a 48% reduction in ground level SO2 pollution on 22 April 2020, when compared with 28 April 2019. The same phenomenon occurred with PM10, which indicates a reduction of almost five times. This correlates well with international studies reported by the international media in respect of PM2,5 concentrations being four times lower than normally experienced in major polluted cities across the world.

Although there is a reduction in air pollution, the effect of air pollution is experienced over years. It is indeed so that the current improvement in air quality is too little over a short period of time to make a significant effect. However, people could again see clear skies over places where it was not possible for the last couple of years. The most valuable benefit therefore would be the awareness that flow from the visible improvement and the subsequent effect on people’s perceptions. The perceptions of affected communities is paramount for effective air quality management.

World Health Organisation, Health effects of particulate matter, 2013. Accessed, 30 April 2020.



  • Western Cape Government, Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (Directorate: Air Quality Management)
  • Letabo Air Quality Specialists
  • South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) –
  • Garden Route District Air Quality Unit
  • Dr Johann Schoeman, Manager: Air Quality Management, Garden Route DM

Issued by the Garden Route District Command Centre

Media Queries: Herman Pieters
Senior Communicator

Garden Route DM lends a helping hand to Industry

Above: Mr Angus Andries assists representatives from Johnsons Bricks, Vantell Bricks, Kurland Bricks, South Cape Galvanizing and Rheebok Bricks.

Every year the District Air Quality unit of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) assists Industrial companies in the Garden route region with the annual submission of their National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory System (NAEIS). GRDM held four workshops with Industries since January 2020.

“Industry sectors are clustered together in order for the District to assist them with the reporting of their 2019 emissions on the system,” said Dr Johann Schoeman, Manager: Air Quality Management.

He further added, “This is a legislative, and therefore, compulsory reporting in terms of the NAEIS Regulations. Each Listed Industry in the South Africa must report its emissions before 31 March on an annual basis.”

GRDM is the only district in the Western Cape that assists its industries in the form of workshops. This trend has continued over the past four (4) years at the GRDM sub-office in Mossel Bay. At the sessions, online questionnaires are completed and a 100% submission rate is always achieved.


The NAEIS system is an online reporting platform of emissions such as Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, Sulphur dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds, Hydrogen sulphide, Oxides of Nitrogen, Particulate Matter, to name a few. It is important for industrial companies and the District to know what emission trends are in order to plan properly.

GRDM’s Air Quality Management Unit will not only continue to manage air quality in the district, but also assist industry with air quality-related matters. Clean air can ultimately only be achieved through a collaborative approach, which is why the District’s Air Quality vision, “To have air quality worthy of the name: Garden Route” is achieved and upheld.



Update on the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring: October 2019

The Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Air Quality Management Unit is pleased to announce that the futuristic robotic looking portable ambient air quality monitoring station has returned after repairs at Scentriod in Canada.

The Scentinal SL50 is used by the GRDM’s Air Quality Management Unit for high accuracy screening purposes as well as obtaining baseline information on ambient air quality in a specific air space in the vicinity of proposed new developments. The robot measures all meteorological parameters, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Sulphide, Total reduced sulphates and Amines, Methane, Volatile Organic Compounds and Particulate Matter with sizes of 1, 2.5 and 10 micron.  The equipment plays a pivotal role in managing air shed and determining the potential accumulative effects in a specific air shed.

The station was recently deployed to the Mossel Bay Harbour in order to obtain baseline information on the ambient air quality in the surrounding area.

The 3rd Generation Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) was recently adopted during a council meeting. The AQMP identified potential air quality “hotspots” within the seven (7) municipalities in the region, by means of a dispersion modelling which make use of emission factors and mathematically simulate on how air pollutants disperse in the ambient atmosphere. The aim of this study was to identify areas of concerns that exist outside the knowledge of the GRDM’s Air Quality Management Unit.

The possible areas of concern are:

  • Bitou: Particulate Matter (PM10)
  • Knysna: Nitrogen Dioxide
  • George: Particulate Matter (PM10)
  • Mossel Bay: Nitrogen Dioxide and odours
  • Oudtshoorn: Particulate Matter (PM10), Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide

Following the identification of the potential areas of concern and pursuing objective 1.5 of the GRDM’s 3rd Generation AQMP, which task the Air Quality Unit to “Initiate and coordinate short-term air quality monitoring projects (where applicable) to verify the dispersion modelling results in potential problem areas”, monitoring will commence in the Knysna, to verify the effect of vehicle emissions in the Main Road of the tourist town.

99-percentile NO2 concentrations along Main Road in Knysna.  Burgundy coloured regions show areas where the air quality standard of 200 µg/m3 may potentially be exceeded.

Subsequent to the Knysna monitoring run, the Scentinal Station will be move to the other areas of concern, namely Bitou and Oudtshoorn.  There are continuous emissions monitoring stations in the George-, Mossel Bay- and Oudtshoorn municipal areas, and the focus will therefore be in regions where there is no permanent monitoring site.


District learners educate in Air Quality

Since 2011 the Garden Route District Municipality’s District Air Quality Unit embarked on air quality awareness relating to clean fires, called the Garden Route Clean Fire Campaign. Ongoing projects were identified due to life-threatening air quality incidents in especially informal settlements, caused by fires used for household purposes, such as cooking and heating. Awareness sessions advanced whereby Peers are trained as educators to teach the community on proper fire making methods and the dangers of air pollution.

Recently, the awareness sessions further extended to a level whereby the Department of Education allowed the Air Quality Project to be incorporated into the curriculum of Grade 3 learners in the Garden Route. This approach ensures that the project reach all grade three learners, making a major impact in raising awareness about air quality.

Following a tender process for the development of study material and the actual roll-out and training of the Grade 3 teachers, the tender for three years was awarded to Mingcele Africa.

During the week of 13 to 17 May 2019, the roll-out of the Clean Fires Programme commenced in the Klein Karoo (Oudtshoorn and Kannaland) region, as this is a significant target group, since most of these communities use wood for heating purposes during the cold winter months.

Mingcele arranged with the Department Education to reach all Primary Schools in the Klein Karoo and Kannaland region. Schools in the following towns were reached: Oudtshoorn, De Rust, Dysselsdorp, Avontuur, Haarlem, Calitzdorp, Uniondale and Ladismith. A blended learning approach was followed.  Blended learning is the use of face-to-face interaction, physical resources, eLearning, eResources, collaboration (WhatsApp) and social media platforms. Thirty-seven (37) schools were individually visited, interacting with teachers took place and study material was handed over to seventy two (72) grade three teachers.   The schools form part of the Eden-Karoo Education District, circuit 5 and 6.

The curriculum of the programme covers the following aspects of Air Pollution, namely:

  • What is air pollution (grade 3 Curriculum and Assessment Policy)
  • Types of pollutions (grade 3 Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements)
  • Air pollution and my family
  • Pollution and the environment
  • Pollution and people

Teachers received the Garden Route District Municipality Grade 3 Pollution Pack, as well as a face-to-face overview of the Programme and the eLearning platform by the Mingcele Africa team. The final steps of the programme will include:

  • WhatsApp week for the next two months until pollution implementation starts according to CAPS.
  • eCourse enrolment by grade three teachers.
  • Completion of eCourse by grade three teachers.
  • Receiving of Pollution Course certificate.

This is a unique programme and known to be the first of its kind for raising air pollution awareness in South Africa. By reaching 72 Grade 3 educators with an average classroom of 35 learners which mean 2520 learners are reached. The learners on the other hand will educate their respective families as part of the programme, with a cumulative effect to reach at least 12 600 community members.

As part of the programme, teachers have to submit a portfolio of evidence, ensuring that there is control over the project and constant evaluation of the successful completion of the Clean Fire pollution programme. The programme is also enrolled as a continuous Development Activity (CPD) for teachers and they will receive CPD credits for the project. In the months to come, the programme will be further rolled out to ultimately reach all schools in the Garden Route district.






Bergsig Primary School

Bongulethu Primary School

Uniondale High School

No Arsenic found at Geelhoutvlei Timbers

During the George veldt fires end of last year, Geelhoutvlei Timbers situated in Karatara, was almost completely destroyed. This tragic incident raised fears that Arsenic-treated wood stored on the premises could contaminate the water sources in the immediate surroundings.

Geelhoutvlei Timbers reacted pro-actively and contained the Chromated Copper Arsenate used at their treatment plant. Surrounding residents still feared that the locations where the treated timber were stored could downwash into the nearby water sources. In order to determine if this fears are justified, the Garden Route District Municipality Air Quality Unit took representative samples for independent laboratory analysis on 17 January 2019. Outcomes of tests done were made available to GRDM on 14 February 2019.

It was confirmed that both water and soil arsenic samples took at various sampling points comply with the Total Concentration (TC) threshold for arsenic expressed as mg/kg or mg/l.


Four samples were taken, of which the results are as follow:

·         Sample 1 – Karatara cement bridge – <0.001mg/l

·         Sample 2 – 1st dam on Geelhoutvlei Timbers premises – <0.001mg/l

·         Sample 3 – De Wit dam – <0.001mg/l

·         Sample 4 – Hoogekraal bridge – <0.001mg/l

RESULT: Detection limits are 0.001mg/l and which is an indication that Arsenic was not detected in the water.


Three soil samples were taken at all the points where treated wood were stored on the Geelhoutvlei Timbers premises:

·         Sample 5 – Treated Timber area: 8.64mg/kg

·         Sample 6 – Pole Yard-East- <0.20mg/kg

·         Sample 7 – Front pole yard- 3mg/kg

RESULT: The Total Concentration (TC) threshold for Arsenic is 500mg/kg.

Chemtech laboratory used the Draft Standard for assessment of waste for landfill disposal as reference for thresholds.

Google images of the sampling points

The Garden Route DM Air Quality Unit is in the process to ensure that the contained arsenic on the premises is disposed of at an approved hazardous waste landfill site (if not done already).

For more information with regard to the above matter, contact:

Dr Johann Schoeman
Manager: District Air Quality Control
Tel: +27 (0)44 693 0006 | +27 (0)84 317 9167

Air Quality officials contribute to workshop held at NMU

The Sub-directorate:  Environmental Law Enforcement (Region 3), George of the Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning recently requested the Air Quality unit of Garden Route District Municipality, to do a presentation at the George Campus of Nelson Mandela University (NMU), as part of their annual Structural Practical Workshop.

Dr Johann Schoeman, District Manager for Air Quality Officer at Garden Route District Municipality, during his presentation to the students.
Student listen attentively to the presentation made by Mr Angus Andries, District Air Quality Officer, at Garden Route District Municipality

The Air Quality Unit was invited for the purpose to share information and educate the NMU second year students registered on the University’s Forestry and Wood Technology programme, on the basic Environmental Law and Management Principles.

This year, the Air Quality Unit once again partook in the session. Dr Johann Schoeman, the District Air Quality Manager, and Mr Angus Andries, the District Air Quality Officer from Garden Route District Municipality, presented the topics ‘Introduction to Air Quality Management,’ as well as ‘Atmospheric Emissions Licencing and the roles and responsibilities of the emission control officers in the Wood Drying industry’.

The presentations were well received and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning commended the Garden Route District Municipality for their input at the workshop.

Knysna – Smoke emissions caused by biomass burning at saw mill

It has come under the attention of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM) that the public is concerned about smoke emissions in the Knysna municipal area. These emissions are caused by biomass burning at Geelhoutvlei Timbers. This area contains pine wood chips from untreated wood only. No arsenic or treated wood products are stored at the facility and the smoldering is caused by the burning of wood chips. It was already burning before the wildfire destroyed the wood mill.

The pollutants emitted by this smoldering area is mainly Oxides of Nitrogen, particulate matter, Carbon monoxide, CO2 and small concentrations of volatile organic compounds – these compounds normally form part of the pollutants emitted when biomass burns. The fire poses no severe health threat to the surrounding communities but will result in a nuisance effect, depending on the distance from the source, the wind speed and or direction thereof.

During a joint operations meeting held this morning, 13 November 2018, at GRDM, a decision was taken that the owners of Geelhoutvlei Timbers should be informed that this situation is triggering a National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998 (as amended), Section 30 incident. Section 30 incidents involves, amongst others, the unexpected, sudden and uncontrolled release from a major emission such as a fire. The responsible person in terms of Section 30 is the owner of the property – in this case, Geelhoutvlei Timbers. Subsequently, the owner of the property must take all reasonable measures to contain and minimize the effects of the incident, undertake clean-up procedures and remedy the effect of the incident.

If the property owners do not respond to this instruction, the relevant authority may follow steps and implement measures it considers necessary to contain and minimize the effects of the incident. This involves the undertaking of clean-up operations and remedy the effects of the incident. Government may claim for the reimbursement of all reasonable costs incurred at the scene, in terms of subsection (8) of the National Environmental Management Act from the responsible person.

Eden District Municipal Health Office in Mossel Bay donated dog food to the Mossel Bay SPCA

“100 Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018” Celebrations

Officials from the Eden District Municipal Health Office in Mossel Bay donated dog food to the Mossel Bay SPCA and also used the opportunity to play with the dogs at the facility. Executive Deputy Mayor of Eden District Municipality, Cllr Rosina Ruiters, Cllr Erica Meyer, Mr Wayne Odendaal, Ms Marlene Losper, Dr Johann Schoeman, Ms Jenay van Niekerk and Mr Angus Andries, participated in the initiative.

Kennel Manager of the facility, Ms Jolandi Esterhuizen, thanked the team and received the items on behalf of the facility.

Vehicle Emission Testing

The National Framework for Air Quality Management in South Africa, 2012, lists vehicle emissions monitoring as a function of a Local Municipality.   Not all municipalities in the Eden district have the capacity and facilities to measure vehicle emissions.  It is for this reason that the Air Quality Unit of the Eden District Municipality (Eden DM) is coordinating matters pertaining to air quality in the district and subsequently assisting municipalities with vehicle emissions testing.

Vehicle emission testing is done by making use of the Smoke Check 1667 Opacity Meter. The opacity meter measures diesel smoke in ‘percent opacity’, which is the percentage of light that is blocked when shining through a smoke plume, which can range from 0% to 100% opacity.

During the 3rd quarter of 2017, Eden DM undertook vehicle emission testing in Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay and Sedgefield in collaboration with the concerned local municipalities. A total of 112 diesel vehicles were inspected. Each vehicle first underwent a visual inspection of exhaust gas, and if a vehicle emitted excessive dark smoke, further testing by means of the Smoke Check 1667 Opacity Meter was undertaken.  The opacity meter gives a printout of the test results and states if the vehicle complies or not. The local municipality may issue a fine or warning, if a vehicle does not comply.

The main objective of this project is to create awareness of vehicle emissions and to minimise the impact it has on ambient air quality in the Eden district. Public awareness plays an important role in protecting the environment for the present and future generations as enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Different role-players worked together to make the project a success.

Eden District Air Quality: Government Institutions prioritise towards healthier communities

Air Quality Monitoring station in Dana Bay relocates

The Air Quality unit of the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs, commissioned an Air Quality Monitoring station in Dana Bay during 2011. This was done on request of the Eden District Municipality’s (Eden DM’s) Air Quality unit due to the possible impact of Industrial activity on Dana Bay residents.

Eden DM’s Air Quality Manager, Dr Johann Schoeman, said: “The results of the station, over the last 5 year period, did not exceed the ambient air quality standards for Benzene and Hydrogen Sulphide,” was also within the World Health Organisation guideline limits and further added that the station was however vandalized twice over the last year. Schoeman further confirmed that both Eden DM Air Quality and Province decided to relocate the station to a more secure environment. “The Eden DM Air Quality unit then proposed to move the station to the Mossel Bay Air Quality office in Extension 23. The offices are located in a residential area which is also in the prevailing wind direction from Industrial activity. It therefore falls within the scope of a receptor environment and covers Kwa-Nonqaba, Ext 23, 26, and parts of D`Almeida,” Schoeman further stated.

Permission was also granted by the Mossel Bay Municipality to relocate at this premises and the necessary building plans were approved. Mossel Bay Municipality also provided the electricity for the station. Techno Asphalt handled the transport of the station to its new location, free of charge.

This project is a joint venture between the Department, Eden DM and Mossel Bay Municipality, showing how cooperative governance between Province, municipalities and private sector can work towards the benefit of our communities. Eden DM has full access to the station, as well as the real time monitoring results, which is very helpful towards air quality management in the region. The same goes for the George and Oudtshoorn monitoring stations.

Eden DM also want to thank the Provincial Air Quality unit for the costly monitoring of the air quality within the Eden district, to the benefit of our communities and is looking forward to similar future joint ventures.