The Shongweni landfill.
DURBAN – A company that has been at the centre of a toxic stench row over a landfill site that it operates on Durban’s outskirts has from Friday been banned from accepting any more hazardous waste.
EnviroServ informed its clients on Thursday that as from Friday afternoon they could no longer accept hazardous waste at the Shongweni landfill site and that the waste (classified as Type 1 Waste) will have to be disposed of at another site.
The company’s announcement follows the issuing last week of a compliance notice by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
According to the notice, the company is now banned from accepting hazardous waste, unless the department gives it permission.
Additionally It must properly dispose of leachate – the liquid that drains from landfill sites.
EnviroServ will also need to appoint a specialist to determine the health impact of the Shongweni site and provide the department with detailed plans and reports of how it is going to dispose of the hazardous waste and leachate.
The company will need to appoint an expert to undertake a technical assessment of the landfill site.
The site has made headlines and incurred the wrath of residents of Durban’s western suburbs of Hillcrest, Shongweni, Dassenhoek, KwaNdengezi and surrounds who claim that the “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 had previously admitted that it was a contributor to the stench in the area.
In the notice, the department's deputy director-general for legal, authorisations, compliance and enforcement, Ishaam Abader said that after considering findings made by the Green Scorpions, who had previously visited the site unannounced and seized samples and documentation, he had reasonable grounds to believe that EnviroServ had broken the law.
The site is licensed to accept hazardous and non-hazardous waste streams such as industrial chemicals, condemned foodstuff, contaminated soil, general household waste and others. Its clients include several KwaZulu-Natal industries.
If convicted of an offence, EnviroServ could be fined up to R10-million.
In response to questions, EnviroServ issued a statement on Friday, which simply read: “No Comment.”
EnviroServ is legally entitled to object to the compliance notice within 30 days of receiving it.
When the Department of Environmental Affairs notified the company more than a month ago that it was intending to issue a compliance notice, the company’s chief executive, Dean Thompson, responded in writing: “We note, with grave concern, your potential intention to issue an order for the site to be shut down. EnviroServ will suffer irreparable and material financial and reputational damage should such closure occur.”
He said there would be significant implications for the company’s clients as there were very few hazardous waste landfill sites in the country.
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Much of what the department had demanded was already being undertaken as part of an 11-point plan that had been agreed upon in August.
He warned that if the site was closed, it could result in the company’s KwaZulu-Natal operations being shut down with the loss of some 300 jobs.
Thompson said EnviroServ believed the communities lodging complaints were part of an “orchestrated campaign” that included the media, social media and environmental groups.
In Thursday’s letter to EnviroServ clients, Thompson said: “We want to reassure you that we are committed to complying with the department's instructions and we will continue to engage all stakeholders on this matter.”