The Shongweni landfill site. Picture: Supplied

Durban – Despite assurances from waste management company EnviroServ that its operations were not harmful to their health, residents would continue to pursue legal action to find out what the landfill’s exact pollutants were.

This was according to attorney Charmane Nel, who is acting on behalf of Upper Highway Air, an NGO formed by residents who were concerned about the odour emanating from the landfill and its effect on residents’ health.

Nel made the comments after EnviroServ said in a recent statement that a specialist report, commissioned from scientific research company INFOTOX, had found the primary air contaminant contributing to odour in the Upper Highway area was present at levels not linked with major health issues.

Upper Highway residents have lodged fresh legal proceedings against Shongweni Landfill-based waste management company EnviroServ. Picture: Fred Kockott

The four-month-long study – which they said would be released in “due course” – showed that the contaminant was hydrogen sulphide which was not associated with a risk of cancer.

The assessment, they said, considered all potential sources of hazardous substances in air released from the Shongweni landfill operations.

The work included air samples being sent to accredited laboratories in the United Kingdom for analysis, detailed dispersion modelling and direct readings taken on the site with calibrated instruments.

“There is an odour contribution emanating from the landfill in the community, caused by hydrogen sulphide and organic sulphur compounds."

“International health studies were done at higher and lower concentrations of these compounds. The landfill study fit in with relatively low concentrations.”

The company said that according to the available health information, nosebleeds, cardiovascular effects and breathing problems in asthmatics could not be linked with exposure to hydrogen sulphide at the levels found in the communities.

“Considering the multitude of chemical substances investigated, no others were found to be of health concern."

"According to currently available information, Shongweni is not the only source of hydrogen sulphide in the study area. This affects the health risk interpretations, because Shongweni is not the major contributor to hydrogen sulphide.”

But Nel said that despite the company claiming that the toxicology report formed the backbone of “their criminal and civil defences”, the NGO had yet to see it.

“(We have) also served a subpoena on INFOTOX to deliver the report. We will not be deterred from both vindicating the community’s rights and from ascertaining the truth.”

The organisation, she said, had launched an urgent application in the Durban High Court for an interim interdict stopping the operations at Shongweni pending, among other things, the outcome of the appeal EnviroServ had instituted.

Last week, EnviroServ filed an appeal against the department’s notice of suspension of its waste management licence.

In a statement at the time, the Environmental Affairs Department said there was still an unacceptably high level of landfill gases being emitted from the landfill site.

The Mercury