by Envass (Environmental Assurance (Pty) Ltd)
Compliance to the National Environmental Air Quality Act; Getting started
Quantification and management of the county’s air quality is exactly what the new Air Quality Act (Act 39 of 2004) intends to achieve, ultimately bringing about air quality which is not harmful or detrimental to health, social conditions, the environment, economic conditions, ecological conditions or even cultural heritage.
April 2010 saw the old Atmospheric Air Pollution Act (APPA) of 1965 being repealed by the new National Air Quality Act (Act 39 of 2004).
In addition, on 31 March 2010, Buyelwa Sonjica, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, established and published activities which result in atmospheric emissions for which an Atmospheric Emission Licence must be obtained before operation can take place.
This suddenly resulted in a series of new environmental compliance directives applicable to the mining sector, including;
- The National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act 39 of 2004,
- Government Notice 248 NEM:AQA (39/2004) which contains the Listed Activities, and
- Government Notice 141 NEM:AQA (39/2004) which is the Proposed Regulations for the Application of Atmospheric Emission Licenses.
All these documents are available on the web site; www.envass.co.za.
Notice 248 lists the 10 main categories, each with its associated subcategories (more detailed description of the exact activities and minimum emission standards), for which an Atmospheric Emission License needs to be obtained. The main categories include;
- Combustion Installations
- Petroleum Industry
- Carbonization and Coal Gasification
- Metallurgical Industry
- Mineral Processing, Storage and Handling
- Organic Chemicals Industry
- Inorganic Chemicals Industry
- Disposal of Hazardous and General Waste
- Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Activities
- Animal Matter processing
Further to this categorization, there’s also the National Ambient Air Quality concentration levels which have been instituted under Schedule 2 (Section 63) of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (Act 39 of 2004).
This in particular provides guidelines toward compliance for emissions associated with ozone, oxides of nitrogen, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, lead, particulate matter with a size of less than 10 microns and total suspended solids.
Consequently if your operation categorizes in any of the liested activities, will you need to initiate monitoring and measurement and most possibly apply for an atmospheric emission license.
The monitoring and measurement will need to come to pass in accordance with the standard sampling and analysis methods in Schedule A of Notice 248.
Take specific note that in accordance with section 2 of the Act, any new plant need to comply with the “new plant” minimum emission standards as in effect from 31 March 2010, while the existing plants have until 31 March 2015 to comply. The Act specifically commits that by 31 March 2020 all plants should comply with the “new plant” minimum standard.
It is also clear that anyone operating an activity listed in the Notice 248 is guilty of an offence if air pollutants are above concentration levels given in the Atmospheric Emission License. This situation will result in penalties determined by the severity of the offence. Air Quality Officials and the Environmental Management Inspectorate for the Department Environmental Affairs are responsible for compliance monitoring and inspections at various operations.
For that reason and amidst an environment where compliance expectations are on the rise, will it be required that polluters accept the duty to implement suitable monitoring and reporting programmes, while at the same time making contact with their regional environmental departments to comprehend regional strategies and action plans.