Coast KZN

25 Feb 2021

State to clamp down on illegal Shakaskraal waste sites

Penny Fourier ( North Coast Courier) Picture: Environmentalists believe the untreated waste at the legal landfill sites in Shakaskraal are posing multiple health hazards to people, in the ground or in the air.

The two illegal landfill sites allegedly operating without licenses for a number of years at Shakaskraal have been banned from accepting any more waste.

This week the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) told The Courier they would pursue criminal charges against the owners of the two illegal sites after they failed to respond to the compliance notice issued by the department. EDTEA spokesperson Bheki Mbanjwa said the department had received no response to their compliance notice issued to the owners of the two facilities on December 7 last year and was “in the process of taking criminal enforcement” against them to stop their illegal activity.

Mbanjwa said an initial inspection of the illegal landfill sites was done by the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement (CME) unit on October 9, 2020 following The Courier’s article ‘Shakaskraal illegal landfill raises a stink’, on October 7, 2020. Follow up inspections were conducted on November 19, 2020, and again on January 29, 2021.

According to the notice the owners of the illegal facilities have to cease any illegal disposal of waste with immediate effect. Additionally they will also have to appoint a specialist within 14 days of receiving the compliance notices to determine the health impact of the sites and provide the department with detailed plans and reports of how it is going to dispose of the waste and leachate – the liquid that drains from landfill sites. The rehabilitation plan has to be started within 30 days of it being approved by the department and must be completed within 90 days.

When the department notified the owners on October 15, 2020 of their intention to issue a compliance notice, Mbanjwa said they were ignored.

In recent months the sites have incurred the wrath of environmentalists, civic groups and residents of the Dolphin Coast and surrounds who claim that the “toxic fumes” from the illegal landfills are a contributor to the stench in the area. They have also accused the department of turning a blind eye to the illegal operations for several years, despite reporting their activities.

The EDTEA is responsible for the monitoring and compliance with the National Environmental Management Act and its subsidiary laws covering waste, air quality, protected areas and coastal management.

Dolphin Coast Conservancy chairperson and member of the KwaDukuza landfill committee, Di Jones said unlike regulated sanitary landfills which work to protect the surrounding area from contaminants, illegal waste sites did not have built-in systems and lack the necessary monitoring to ensure environmental safety.

“In an unmonitored, unregulated situation, runoff from hazardous waste can work its way into streams, rivers and even into drinking water. The Shakaskraal landfill is close to the Umhlali River, which is a major cause for concern,” said Jones, who believed the untreated waste would pose multiple health hazards to people, in the ground or in the air.

Perpetrators, ranging from small businesses to individuals use illegal landfills to avoid paying standard waste disposal fees at the only registered transfer station – Dolphin Coast Waste Management (DCWM).

Jones said waste producers were obliged to ensure the firm they hired to dispose of their waste were operating legally and ensure correct and safe disposal of the waste.