However, the eThekwini metro municipality, to whom the order was allegedly given, said on Friday it had never received any such order and that EnviroServ – the company at the centre of the toxic stench row – had voluntarily stopped tanking the leachate to the municipality’s southern waste water treatment works.
Natasha Pillay of the DEA’s oceans and coast unit told a community meeting in Merebank on Thursday night that a decision had been taken last week to halt the disposal of the EnviroServ leachate from the Shongweni landfill site.
The site has incurred the wrath of residents of Durban’s western suburbs of Hillcrest, Shongweni, Dassenhoek, KwaNdengezi and surrounds who claim that the company’s “toxic fumes” from the landfill have been causing nosebleeds, sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, and other health problems.
The company recently admitted it had breached Durban’s bylaws five times, but said these breaches had been administrative in nature. It has also admitted that it was a contributor to the stench in the area.
A temporary permit issued by the municipality to dispose of the leachate and contaminated storm water at the southern waste water treatment works was authorised by DEA deputy director general for chemicals and waste management Mark Gordon.
Once treated at the treatment works plant, the waste is pumped 4km out to sea 60 metres below sea level in the Cuttings Beach area.
It was not immediately clear whether this permit had been revoked, but Pillay said: “We have advised the municipality to stop taking any more leachate from the Shongweni landfill and we are waiting for feedback from the municipality that it has been stopped.”
Pillay told the Merebank meeting that specific authorisation was required for any discharge into coastal waters.
However, on Friday eThekwini metro municipal spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said: “The city has had meetings with the [KwaZulu-Natal] department of economic development, tourism, and environmental affairs (DEDTEA). However, no formal directive has been received by the city from DEDTEA to cease the acceptance of leachate from Shongweni landfill.”
She said EnviroServ had voluntarily stopped disposing of leachate through the treatment plant, which was echoed by the company’s CEO Dean Thompson in a response to questions on Friday.
“EnviroServ, by its own accord, has temporarily suspended tankering of effluent to southern wastewater treatment works until such time as we are able to be assured of a consistency in standards.”
The company had informed the municipality of its decision on Wednesday after it had noted inconsistencies in the leachate leaving the site. The company was still in possession of the temporary permit that it had previously been granted.
EnviroServe would focus on additional pre-treatment of leachate to the required standard by treating it in a dedicated tank on site.
“Only upon receiving compliant analysis will this effluent be tankered to southern waste treatment works. We remain on track to meet our 11-point action plan as agreed with by the department of environmental affairs.”
While initially it was only residents in the western suburbs who were angry over the leachate, residents in Durban’s southern suburbs, such as Merewent, were infuriated when they learned that leachate would be pumped into the sea in their area.
Leachate is the liquid that drains from a waste site. It generally contains elevated concentrations of undesirable material from the waste.
– African News Agency (ANA)