Durban - The company accused of releasing toxic odours into the Hillcrest area on Thursday admitted it contributed to the stench.

It has apologised for any inconvenience caused, but said it is not responsible for any ill health being experienced in the area.

EnviroServ CEO, Dean Thompson, said that a leachate storage tank at the Shongweni landfill site had been contributing to the odours being experienced by residents in and around the Hillcrest area, in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We sincerely regret any inconvenience caused and assure [those affected] that we are taking all necessary steps to mitigate our contribution to the malodours experienced by the community,” he said.

Thompson said EnviroServ was not the only company that was contributing to the stench, and that the odours were not responsible for any chronic health effects being experienced in the area.

“It is unlikely that emissions from the Shongweni landfill site are the sole source of malodour in the area, or indeed the sole cause of the recent odour complaints by the wider Hillcrest residents.”

“The level of contaminants thus far sampled in the community cannot be responsible for the chronic health effects being reported,” he said.

ANA had previously reported that residents of Plantations Estate in Hillcrest had experienced nausea, headaches and coughing spasms since November 2015, and that they believed it was the “toxic air” coming from the landfill that was responsible for their ill health.

Wide-ranging

The stench had been reported as far away as Gillitts, Botha's Hill and Waterfall, and residents in Shongweni and Shongweni Dam said they too experienced the “chemical stink”.

Residents of the upmarket Plantations Estate were the most vocal in their complaints. They accused EnviroServ of wilfully not disclosing the chemicals being dumped at the landfill.

This led to a number of heated community meetings. At one of these, environmentalist Rico Euripidou called the air quality testing results conducted by EnviroServ's long-time air monitoring company, GeoZone Environmental, “junk science”.

“To collect and compare two weeks' worth of data is fruitless, stupid and a total waste of money. GeoZone did this because it was cheap and easy,” said Euripidou.

Read also: 'Chemical odours' causing residents to fall ill

A “working group” consisting of community members, EnviroServ employees, municipal officials, air quality specialists and an independent health consultant was established in June to determine the source of the odours and the associated health impacts.

Although EnviroServ called for “open and transparent” meetings with the working group, it barred the media from attending these. It was during one of these meetings that EnviroServ agreed to fund Golder Associates Africa, on behalf of the community, to work alongside GeoZone Environmental.

Corrective action

Golder specialises in geotechnical and environmental consulting. “My company is implementing corrective actions to reduce the odours emanating from the leachate tank. These actions include an ozone-based oxidation process as an additional treatment for the leachate, and covering the leachate collection tank. We have invited the working group to monitor our corrective actions,” said Thompson.

He said EnviroServ anticipated an immediate and significant reduction in emissions from the site once the actions had been completed. “The fact that the appointed experts have identified other sources that impact negatively on air quality may, however, mean that the community will continue to experience malodours,” said Thompson.

“These other potential sources, as identified by the independent specialists, include the multi-fuel pipeline, various municipal waste-water treatment plants and pump stations, as well as other agricultural and industrial activities.”

AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY