Jubilation after landfill site is shut
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When the Bulbul landfill site manager arrived at the gate and attached a brand new padlock and chain, a roar of approval went up.
Cheers and the celebrations from residents on Tuesday marked the end of a stinking 20-year era for the people of Havenside, Silverglen, Umlazi, Bayview and the surrounding areas of Chatsworth.
The community’s long battle to close the hazardous Bulbul Drive dumpsite and prevent it from operating until 2021 had finally become a reality.
Earlier, the last truck carrying waste to the landfill site went through the gate of the Wasteman company.
Now that the site has finally closed, engineers will move in to seal it. This should be the end to air pollution, toxic chemical fumes, watering eyes and sicknesses that have plagued nearby schools resulting in many being evacuated.
“The toxic chemical smells used to get into homes where it stayed,” said Shaun Hammond, a vociferous member of the Bulbul Drive monitoring committee.
Hammond said pupils and teachers of nearby Summerfield and Gitanjili primary schools bore the brunt of the pollution and had to be evacuated on several occasions.
“Now they too will enjoy quality education in a clean environment enjoyed by other more affluent schools.”
However, he warned that although the site was closed, residents would have to be even more vigilant because the site could attract illegal dumpers.
“Wasteman has not put up a sign warning that the site has closed, so there will be truck drivers who turn up expecting it to be open, and when they find that it is not, they will dump their waste on the roadside,” he said.
Krish Naidoo, a member of the Silverglen Civic Association, who led the struggle against the site for the past 20 years, hailed the closure as “a huge victory” for the residents of Chatsworth.
The community had objected to the proposal of an environmental impact assessment in 2009 which would have extended the lifespan of the site until 2021.
A statement given to journalists by the community spoke of tons of toxic waste from Engen, Sappi, ships and other huge chemical factories all over KwaZulu-Natal being dumped at the site.
“Poisons from this ‘legal’ dumpsite contaminate the air and ground water. The poisons are in the form of solids, liquids, dust and gases. Some of these have a very hard stench: others that are extremely poisonous, have no smell, but fill the air that communities are forced to breathe,” the statement read.
Hundreds of people suffered with sicknesses caused by the pollution.
“Doctors in Chatsworth have shown concerns over the large number of patients with diseases such as sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis and allergic reactions… Initially, these diseases appear to be minor and are treated with medication which suppresses the symptoms, such as drippy noses, itchy and red eyes, itchy throats, excessive mucus production and coughing and tight chests or difficulty in breathing – but these diseases have more sinister long-term consequences,” the statement said.
Doctors said such minor illness “could lead to serious, irreversible damage to the upper and lower respiratory organs, causing incurable diseases such as chronic asthma, emphysema and bronchitis”.