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Could ceasing operations at Shongweni Landfill worsen the odour problem?

Shongweni Landfill in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Shongweni Landfill in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

EnviroServ has filed an appeal against the suspension of its waste management licence. Last Tuesday, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) issued the Shongweni Landfill’s operator with a notice of suspension, and gave it until Friday to cease operations at the site.

“We believe the suspension notice was premature and in breach of an agreement concluded with the DEA that final reports from our experts would be presented on 10 April 2017 for further consideration,” Dean Thompson, EnviroServ’s CEO said in a statement.

“These expert reports demonstrate that the suspension notice is based on numerous incorrect technical and scientific conclusions, and form the backbone of our defence to both the civil and criminal charges which have been brought against the company,” he added.

For months, residents living in close proximity to the landfill, located west of Durban, had lodged complaints with the DEA about a “noxious” smell emanating from the landfill site.

In a recent episode of 50|50, a nearby resident said: “I don’t need them to tell me what’s toxic or not toxic, I can feel it. It’s affecting me.”

The resident and his wife told the show that “typically, the will deny the toxicity, because that’s what they do, deny everything, deny, deny, deny.”

Thompson explained that the company’s experts said the landfill should continue to receive specific waste streams in order to see a continued rise in the site’s pH levels, which has now been identified as the core of the odour problem.

“Suspension of the site’s licence would only serve to exacerbate this,” he said.

EnviroServ said it maintained that the landfill was “compliant in all regards”, and added that it had concrete evidence that it was not the only contributor to the odour problem in the area.

“We have every confidence that our various scientific studies, which will be presented in due course, will prove this,” Thompson said.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) formally charged EnviroServ and was scheduled to appear in the Durban Magistrates Court on Tuesday, however the case was postponed.

Thompson said this came as a “surprise” to them.

“When we said that proceedings against EnviroServ had been launched prematurely and before we could finalise our expert reports, we were told the State had enough evidence to secure a conviction,” he said. However, on Tuesday morning EnviroServ said it was notified that the State needed to review the charge sheet and also gather further evidence.

The case has been postponed to a provisional date of 17 August 2017.

As a court case unfolds, residents are still left helpless, with many complaining of health related issues affecting their children, and said they will continue to take to the streets with their placards demanding clean air.

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