Ubumbano Lokuthulo Organisation chairperson Dr Andile Hlatshwayo (centre) with bishop Sandile Mdleza of the United Methodist Church and traditional healer, bishop Msomi. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Durban – A non-profit organisation together with churches and traditional healers from KwaZulu-Natal have joined together to force waste management giant EnviroServ to run its Shongweni landfill in a manner that “does not harm” surrounding communities.

Ubumbano Lokuthulo Organisation (ULO), joined by bishops and traditional healers, held a press briefing in Durban on Monday, where they made the announcement of their united effort to protect water sources in the area.

“We have been approached by churches and community members about the water in particular that the communities are using in the Shongweni area that is making people and livestock sick,” said ULO chairperson, Dr. Andile Hlatshwayo.

He said the community believed it was the runoff from EnviroServ’s waste disposal processes that had led to the “contamination” of water systems.

ULO had managed to retrieve a water sample from inside EnviroServ’s facilities – after being denied access by the company - and had sent it for independent testing, said Hlatshwayo.

This is not the first time EnviroServ has angered communities in the vicinity of its massive landfill.

The Upper Highway Air (UHA) group has brought civil charges against the company, contending that noxious odours from the site have caused illnesses among residents in Hillcrest and surrounds.

Criminal charges have also been brought against the company for the landfill’s alleged contravention of sections of the Air Quality Act and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).

The company’s waste management licence was suspended in 2017, which stopped it from receiving certain waste streams. 

EnviroServ has, however, as of May 2019, applied to have the suspension lifted, with a decision pending. 

The company has vehemently denied that the landfill is the cause of any illnesses experienced by surrounding communities.

It has said, however, that the landfill may be a “contributor” to malodours, and embarked on expensive remedial action as part of agreements with the department of forestry, fisheries and environmental affairs (DEFF).

ULO said on Monday that while they were not part of UHA, they were willing to work alongside any organisations or community groups interested in making the affected environment safer.

“We are not aligned with any other forum, we are just Ubumbano Lokuthulo Organisation which is registered with the Department of Social Development,” said Hlatshwayo.

“The cases currently underway are about air pollution, but we have discovered that along with the air pollution, there is water pollution.”

ULO had also written to DEFF minister Barbara Creecy seeking a meeting, he said.  

EnviroServ is set to appear in court again on the criminal charges on October 18. 

However, according to the DEFF,  the company was challenging the constitutionality of certain definitions of the Air Quality Act and provisions related to the director liability clause contained in section 34 of NEMA.

“The department therefore anticipates that the criminal case will only gain momentum in the criminal court once these challenges are heard by the respective courts,” said the DEFF.

EnviroServ’s spokesperson, Thabiso Taaka, was contacted for comment and did not respond. 

EnviroServ's public relations company thereafter emailed ANA saying it would deal with questions. 

Once questions were sent, the company responded: "EnviroServ keep business hours and are therefore unable to respond to your request which landed after 5 pm, until tomorrow."

African News Agency (ANA)