Coast KZN

29 Apr 2021

Dumping continues unabated as environmental affairs files criminal charges against illegal Shakaskraal waste sites

Penny Fourie (North Coast Courier) Picture: Co-ordinator for the South Durban community environmental alliance (SDCEA) Desmond D'sa, SDCEA) air quality officer Bongani Mthembu waste campaign manager, Musa Chamane from GroundWork.

Solid waste continues to be illegally disposed at the 2 waste dumps at Shakaskraal.

Last week environmental activists visited the sites to investigate conditions and progress of the clean up after the department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs (EDTEA) filed criminal charges against the landowners at 73 and 74B Cemetery Lane, Shakaskraal. Both cases were registered on March 3 at Umhlali Saps.

The landowners have failed to respond to the compliance notice issued by the EDTEA in December 2020 to compel them to remove the waste. In addition they are also required to appoint a specialist to determine the health impact of the sites and provide the department with detailed plans and reports of how they are going to dispose of the waste and leachate – the liquid that drains from landfill sites.

Left unchecked for years, the illegal sites contain a wide range of hazardous and untreated waste causing significant harm to the environment and human health.

Waste campaign manager, Musa Chamane from GroundWork, a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organisation, said enforcement and monitoring needed to be implemented to ensure the illegal dump sites do not continue their operations.

GroundWork waste campaign manager, Musa Chamane said the burning on the dump site is causing significant harm to the environment and human health.

Chamane said the water tributaries running below the waste site appears to had been contaminated as evident from the large pile of waste lying overhead it. The tributaries lead into Umhlali River, which feeds into the ocean.

The waste from both the dump sites inspected have not been removed but appear to have been pushed further down the ravines.

“Untreated waste over time decomposes and sweats. This liquid, leachate, is hazardous and must be collected for disposal. Companies who manage landfills have a specialized draining system in place that collects this leachate. The fluid is usually collected into tubes that transport it to special containers. Hazardous waste transporters then collect the waste for proper disposal. If leachate is left unchecked and seeps into the ground because of improper treatment it ends up in our oceans, negatively affecting the water quality and marine life,” said Chamane.

Residents of nearby communities have complained that fumes from the dump sites have kept them awake at night and caused concern about the effect on their health.

Environmentalists, civic groups and residents believe the “toxic fumes” from the illegal landfills may be a contributor to an ongoing stench in the area. However, South Durban community environmental alliance (SDCEA) air quality officer Bongani Mthembu said air quality tests needed to be done to determine potential dangerous levels of airborne pollution.

According to Mthembu where plastic waste has been illegally burned, high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are also found that can cause harm to human health.

Co-ordinator for the SDECA, Desmond D’sa said even in cases where environmental legislation is effectively in place, attention needed to be paid to environmental law implementation.