EnviroServ lashes out over landfill
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Durban - Waste management giant EnviroServ has accused the Department of Environmental Affairs of bias and fuelling a “trial by media” through its handling of the Shongweni landfill.
It further accused the department of having decided, despite no formal resolution or action taken, to suspend the company’s Shongweni licence, which could see the indefinite closure of the site.
The dressing-down was done in an e-mail from EnviroServ’s lawyers on Monday to the department's deputy director-general for chemicals and waste management, Mark Gordon, who has denied the allegations.
In an e-mail, EnviroServ’s legal representative Christo Reeders cited instances where the media and the Upper Highway Air NPO - a grassroots organisation lobbying for accountability from EnviroServ - appeared to be privy to information affecting the company.
“You have been reported in the media as also having stated that certain of [EnviroServ’s] submissions to you regarding the cause of the problems at Shongweni are not to be believed,” said the letter.
Reeders said Gordon had told the NPO that a decision to suspend or revoke the licence for the Shongweni landfill would be made by tomorrow.
“This is notwithstanding the fact that you have clearly not met the prerequisites to do so.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions announced last week that the company was being criminally charged for contravening the National Air Quality Act. It is understood that other charges have been added to the docket.
The company has come under fire from community members living near and around the landfill, who believe that “toxic fumes” from the site have been making them ill.
EnviroServ has denied any culpability, but has admitted it was partially responsible for the malodour. The company believes the move to prosecute is premature.
Read also: EnviroServ to appear over Shongweni landfill
“We have on numerous occasions raised with you, in writing, our concerns regarding an obvious and unchallenged information ‘leak’ in the department, the existence of which you have actually confirmed in writing,” said Reeders.
Gordon said he had acknowledged allegations made by EnviroServ chief executive Dean Thompson regarding the leaking. “At no point did I agree that information had leaked from the department,” he said.
He added that he had not replied to certain correspondence sent by EnviroServ because he had taken the time to “fully understand the physical, engineering and biochemical dynamic resulting in the continuous emissions of gaseous odours from the Shongweni landfill site”.
Gordon said he was not averse to giving EnviroServ another opportunity to present further evidence and that he would make arrangements for the company to do such “as soon as possible”.