Shongweni Landfill company claims success but it still stinks

Shongweni Landfill site has been the centre of a controversial court case between Eco-warriors, Upper Highway NPC and the waste management company, EnviroServ.

IT’S been six months since operations at the Shongweni Landfill site were suspended and waste management company, EnviroServ, claims they have taken remedial action to treat the odour, however residents allege they are still “suffocating” with the toxic smell.

The Upper Highway Air NPC was granted interim relief by the Durban High Court on 26 April against EnviroServ, with immediate effect, preventing it from receiving, treating and disposing of all waste streams into the Shongweni Landfill site, pending the outcome of the civil action instituted by it against the waste company, alternatively the outcome of EnviroServ’s appeal against the DEA’s suspension of its waste management licence.

Despite EnviroServ having come to the end of its alleged remedial measures, and claiming H2S levels have reduced “significantly”, residents say the stench remains and often hits homes the worst during the evenings and early mornings when the wind is blowing from the direction of the landfill.

ALSO READ: Continue to submit reports as Shongweni stench lingers

Lauren Johnson, founder of the UHA NPC said they received 55 588 complaints from May to 16 October 2017, with 10 515 since the completion of the EnviroServ remedial measures (September to 16 October).

“This shows that the remedial measures undertaken have not worked and been the success hoped for as people are still clearly being affected. Seems EnviroServ may need to go back to the drawing board, particularly since Infotox confirmed in its odour assessment that H2S was not solely responsible for the odour impacts, but a cocktail of pollutants were,” said Johnson.

Neville Kaiser, one of the directors of the Upper Highway Air NPC and a resident in the area, said EnviroServ is claiming they have done and completed the remedial work at the Shongweni landfill site, however, at a site inspection visit on 21 September, the smell was alarmingly present.

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“As a part of the ‘tour’ we were taken to a bio-scrubber (a converted container with wood chips and composting material in it), the gas being exhausted out of the container was so strong (the familiar petrochemical odour) that a number of passengers in the taxi wanted to vomit. When the EnviroServ representative was asked about it, he denied smelling a thing,” said Kaiser.

He added that a trial flare which is supposed to be running has obviously failed.

“It appeared to be a rickety affair with pipes balanced on bricks etc. Of concern is the flare was burning but the smell was still strong, just looking at the bubbling CSW dam. No evidence of any chemicals (Sulphur) being scrubbed was given or offered, let alone the cocktail contained in the gas,” said Kaiser.

 

Background

The UHA NPC took up the challenge to help the community by establishing a website and a smartphone app that provided information, support and a complaints platform that is directed at the relevant authorities with regards to the current air pollution crisis. Residents have been plagued with various illnesses such as asthma, nausea, vomiting, burning and itchy eyes, congested chests, difficulty in breathing and more, which they strongly believe is the result of the toxic fumes emanating from the Shongweni landfill site. The organisation received 137 484 air pollution complaints from May 2016 to 16 October 17.

 

Public meeting

The UHA NPC has called an urgent public meeting at St Agnes Church in Kloof on Tuesday, 24 October at 6.30pm to address the community as to where the UHA is at currently and what is the plan ahead.

EnviroServ’s remedial action

EnviroServ’s spokesman, Thabiso Taaka said the company has completed its 180-remedial plan and are extremely satisfied with the outcome.

“We capped the front face of the landfill site to reduce emissions from this area. We installed a gas extraction and capturing system together with a gas treatment system consisting of a bio-scrubber, chemical scrubber and a gas flare to treat the captured landfill gas. All leachate storage tanks were covered and the emissions are collected and treated via a bio-scrubber. This has substantially reduced the release of hydrogen sulfide from the tank farm area. The stone drainage layer of the landfill was covered, linked to the gas collection network and treated via the gas scrubber and gas flare,” said Taaka.

ALSO READ: Mariannhill Landfill site causes a stink

He added that the work-face of the landfill site continues to receive treatment with lime to assist in maintaining the raised pH and this supports the reduction of the emissions of hydrogen sulphide significantly.

“While these remedial activities have been costly, they’ve substantially reduced hydrogen sulfide levels measured on site with real-time air quality monitors. We also held a further Monitoring Committee meeting and a new, independent chairman, Linda Mlotshwa, is representative of the surrounding communities, was appointed. The new Terms of Reference was also agreed upon,” said Taaka.

 

Report the stench

Kaiser said the gas at present is not only H2s but a cocktail of gasses, and this is alarming as EnviroServ appear to want to deny yet must be aware of what they are doing.

“Our plea to people therefore is to report everytime they smell it, its time for the company to be held responsible for its actions which they are fully aware of. Ironic isn’t it that when this all started EnviroServ denied they were the polluter. It’s time all communities and the DEA held them accountable,” said Kaiser

You can report the smell either through the UHA website, www.upperhighwayair.co.za or the Upper Highway Air apps for Android and iOS. Reports can be made for everyone over the age of 14, at every location you smell it and if you are at one place and the smell lasts for a long period of time every hour.

 

 

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  AUTHOR
Deshni Ramkissoon-Pillay
Journalist

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