‘EnviroServ was a repeat offender’, city official says

The leachate tanks that have been storing waste water.

SHOCKING findings  surrounding EnviroServ’s controversial landfill site at Shongweni were revealed at a Monitoring Committee meeting at the Assagay Hotel on Thursday afternoon.

The result of the meeting will see all operations associated with the acceptance and disposal of  Class A (Type 1) waste at the Shongweni Landfill site suspended for a further two weeks. Representatives from eThekwini, the Department of Environmental Affairs (provincial and national government), stakeholders as well management from EnviroServ were in attendance.

At the meeting it was revealed to the horror of those in attendance that  eThekwini Waste Water had fined EnviroServ  R1 000 per load for their non-compliance of their waste water which is dispatched via Southern Works in Merebank through a sea outfall at Cuttings Beach. It is believed that EnviroServ had signed an admission of guilt and had taken steps to comply with bylaws by putting in a diffusion plant. When urged to reveal how many times EnviroServ had breached the bylaws, a city official confirmed EnviroServe had been a repeat offender over the past five years.

After the five-hour meeting, EnviroServ’s CEO, Dean Thompson admitted to his company contributing to the noxious odour and said he would comply with what the Department of Environmental Affairs has ordered to rectify the problem and to build trust with the community again.

DEA steps in

Mark Gordon, deputy director-general of chemicals and waste management at the national Department of Environmental Affairs set out a number stipulations that EnviroServe would have to comply with. These included:

  • decanting of the stored leachate and contaminated storm-water through the approved processes within 10 week;
  • convene an urgent monitoring committee meeting within two weeks;
  • provide a detailed leachate management plan for long term storage and treatment of leachate;
  • provide a detailed stakeholder engagement plan with the entire affected community;
  • undertake a toxicological assessment of the potential health hazards associated with noxious emissions emanating from the site and provide the DEA and eThekwini Metro Health department with terms of reference for such a study;
  • undertake a detailed technical assessment of the site including a report of the co-disposal ratio, hydraulic loading capacity and consequent leachate generation capacity;
  • review the medium to long term management and control of noxious emissions including the active extraction and destruction of the landfill gases;
  • review and improve site operations including tanker loading gantry operations, waste inventory management and reporting, waste classification, complaints management, social responsibility and air quality management and control;
  • provide a detailed inventory of all waste accepted at the site over the past eight months;
  • and lastly provide a detailed emergency waste management response and recovery plan of how they will manage, over the next two weeks, the collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste.

EnviroServ responds

EnviroServ’s group technical director, Esme Gombault, delivered a presentation regarding their action plan said the company had provided weekly updates to the DEA regarding the Class A (Type 1) waste and a review of all waste streams was in progress.

She said EnviroServ had received approval from eThekwini Water and Sanitation to decant and dispose of all stored leachate.  She added that transport of additional loads of leachate for off-site disposal had commenced. A further  monitoring committee meeting would be conducted as a matter of urgency and would include members of Inchanga, Dassenhoek, KwaNdengezi (date and venue still to be confirmed).

“The leachate management plan is being prepared. The order is for the five leachate storage tanks to be covered. The roof will be installed over the next seven weeks, at one roof per week starting on Monday, 5 September,” said Gombault.

She said a stakeholder engagement plan was in process and stakeholders would receive proposals to review and accept before they are submitted to the DEA by 12 September.  She confirmed that a review of site operations was in progress and the waste inventory lists had been submitted to the DEA on 20 and 28 August.

Concern for the environment

The community questioned EnviroServ about the amount of leachate that had to be transported out of the Shongweni landfill. The number, 27.5 million litres of leachate, was overwhelming.

Niven Reddy of groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa said it was quite alarming that the authorities were allowing such high quantities of toxic waste to enter the sea via a pipeline operated by eThekwini Municipality.

“So knowingly,the eThekwini Municipality is allowing the dumping of toxic waste into the ocean. Last week, groundWork attended the WasteMan Bulbul Drive Monitoring Committee meeting and learnt that there are 3.5 million litres of toxic waste pumped into the sea per month and now we hear that Enviroserv is sending out a further 27.5 million over the next three months,” he said.

“We need to understand by what processes eThekwini Municipality allows the dumping of toxic waste into our ocean in order for these companies to maintain profits. It is to our understanding that EnviroServ has been given many fines. It is simply unacceptable that these big companies are slapped with petty fines and allowed to proceed,” said Reddy.

Community reacts

Lauren Johnson said the current suspension was of Class A waste only which is 25 per cent of EnviroServ’s current intake. “Our problem is the other classes of hazardous waste are still being accepted.”

Siyanda Chonco, a Dassenhoek representative, raised concerns about the meeting being held only in a selected area for public participation. He questioned the positioning of the landfill being in close proximity to rural settlements yet those affected residents were always excluded from EnviroServ’s research and data collections. He also mentioned that several people, including children, had contracted various illnesses leading to one fatality, as well as  cattle allegedly dying as a result of the malodour.

DEA Minister’s advisor, Brigitte Mabandla said stakeholder meetings should be all inclusive. “We should be able to hold a meeting where all can attend, especially the poor who are always left out, not hold imbizos in different areas.”

The public called for EnviroServ’s license to be revoked but  were told it was not a simple process. Mark Gordon said there were three areas to clear – technical work to be done; the legal aspect regarding the inspection and the stakeholder engagement. The Monitoring Committee will reconvene in two weeks time.

How to report the smell: The easiest method to report the small is via the website, www.upperhighwayair.co.za as the complaints go to EnviroServ, eThekwini and the DEA.

 

You may also be interested in:

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

 

 

  AUTHOR
Deshni Ramkissoon-Pillay
Journalist

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