Government steps in to investigate Hillcrest stench

UPPER Highway residents will be relieved, following the National Department of Environmental Affair’s instruction for EnviroServ to temporary suspend all hazardous waste being accepted at the Shongweni Landfill site while they undertake a full investigation into the source of the malodour

EnviroServ was served a letter from the DEA on Monday morning which has resulted in the immediate and remedial actions taken pending investigations following the Working Group Committee meeting with residents, as well as municipal and provincial government at the Assagay Hotel, on Wednesday, 17 August.

Lauren Johnson, a Hillcrest resident, said what resonated from the meeting was the complaints logging with the municipality. They received more than 300 complaints a week from residents regarding the horrendous chemical/sulphur/refinery smell. She said some pertinent questions were raised which they did not get adequate answers to, which showed that residents were asking the right ones.

DEA steps in

Johnson added that they had a meeting at the Shongweni Landfill on Thursday with Mark Gordon, deputy director-general of chemicals and waste management at the national Department of Environmental Affairs. He said: “Enviroserv has indicated that some of their waste streams may be contributing to the odour and as such they have agreed to and committed to a two-week temporary suspension of all hazardous waste being accepted at the site while they undertake a full investigation into other possible waste streams and sources of malodour including what is causing the burning smell. A toxicological study will confirm, to some extent, the adverse health effects of the malodour.”

EnviroServ apologises

Dean Thompson, Group CEO at EnviroServ said: “While the findings of two air quality specialists have indicated that the odour originates from more than one source, we have implemented a number of measures and undertaken additional extraordinary measures as agreed upon by the Department of Environmental Affairs which we are confident will significantly improve the situation upon completion in October.” He added that all Type 1 (Class A) waste accepted at Shongweni landfill site will be disposed of at Holfontein ,with no additional cost to the customer from 24 August to 7 September, while remedial measures as agreed with the Department of Environmental Affairs are carried out.

“We are committed to our participation in the various structures set up by stakeholders in the community in order to amicably resolve the matter. We regret our contribution to the odours and unreservedly apologise to the community,” said Thompson.

Last month, EnviroServ acknowledged that there was a leak in their leachate collection tank and have since covered the tank at the bottom of valley 2 with a temporary cover while the actual one is being manufactured. This is supposed to reduce some of the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) being released into the atmosphere.

The temporary cover was installed last week and presented at the Working Group meeting, however, reports that night from Dassenhoek came through as well as Winston Park and Hillcrest the next evening. Some community members have said that it “has made no difference to the odour being experienced as the noxious smell was terrible over the weekend”.

The Community air quality specialist was asked by the Community to attend site after the noxious odours continued after the mitigation measures by EnviroServ seemed to not be reducing the odours. During the brief site visit, ‘the smell’ was detected on site however was faint and short-lived near Valley 2. Potential sources may include the leachate storage tanks at the leachate treatment area; and/or the actual working face of the landfill itself.

It is therefore suggested that EnviroServ review the suite of pollutants currently being monitored, the locations of the monitoring, and update the list of priority pollutants accordingly which would typically go on a smell with the provided descriptions.

“We have got national government listening to us now and apparently more complaints are being fielded than the Durban South incident, according to Neil Larrat of eThekwini Municipality. We do have more means though and thanks to social media, he has given us the DEA hotline number for reporting now, which is fantastic and we as a community are calling for temporary closure of the landfill pending investigations,” said Johnson.

The Municipality has called for independent sampling of air, water and other environment , a toxicological review and a full engineering report to be done, at the cost to EnviroServ, as the offending party.

What to do when you detect the smell?
Go to and log a complaint. This complaint form goes to the community representatives, eThekwini Municipality, the Department of Environmental Affairs as well as EnviroServ.

Related Articles:

Residents fuming over ‘toxic’ stench
Hillcrest residents fuming over ‘toxic’ stench
Enviro alliance investigates Shongweni landfill
EnviroServ admits to contributing to Hillcrest odour

Deshni Ramkissoon-Pillay

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