The waste-to-energy project of the Drakenstein Municipality has been rejected by local businesses and communities who assert it is to be built on contested land. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane
Cape Town - Local businesses and activists have slammed the Drakenstein municipality’s proposed waste-to-energy project in Wellington as flawed and illegal.

The project involves burning of waste and conversion of produced energy.

It came under sharp criticism this week when local businesses and residents met to discuss its effect.

Not only is the process through which the tender was awarded incorrect, the effect of the project on the region’s environment and people is potentially dangerous, said Keith Roman, spokesman for the Wellington Association Against the Incinerator.

He said the municipality was “bulldozing” the incinerator project through without considering other options, including waste reduction, recycling and re-use.

The ash and smoke produced in burning waste would have health risks for residents, Roman added.

Furthermore, the proposed site for the incinerator is on land which has a valid claim by the residents of Sakkieskamp, who were forcefully removed in the 1970s. The municipality has not handed over the land to the claimants, saying it is not suitable for restitution.

Roman said the Wellington Association Against the Incinerator has resorted to taking the matter to court to try to have the municipality’s decision reviewed.

Among the issues raised in the association's court papers is that the municipality first issued a request for proposals to bidders and then adjusted the requirements when it told the four shortlisted bidders to conduct feasibility studies and to take on the operation of the Wellington landfill site.

The municipality further registered the project as a private public partnership, but this was rejected by the National Treasury, which required the municipality to conduct its own feasibility study, among other requirements.

However, the municipality went ahead and signed a memorandum of understanding with its preferred bidder.

Another concern raised by the association is the volume of waste to be transported to Wellington and the proximity of the proposed incinerator site to residential areas and schools.

The court papers read: “Hundreds of tons of waste could be imported daily into Wellington and this waste would be burned to generate electricity to offset the municipality’s power bill. I understand that the idea is to import the waste from neighbouring towns and possibly even from abroad.”

Municipal manager Johan Leibbrandt said the project was necessary or the landfill would run out of space by 2022.

“Transporting waste to a Cape Town landfill site will be an exorbitant cost. Various impact assessment studies have been completed for the proposed project and the ongoing project process will include full community consultation before a final decision is taken,” he said.

He denied there was a land claim where the proposed incinerator would be built.

“The memorandum of agreement which the Drakenstein Municipality signed with Interwaste implies that all the waste collected by the municipality from households and businesses will go to the recycling facility at the Wellington landfill site once this facility has been built by Interwaste as part of the proposed waste-to-energy project.

“The municipality exercises no control over the waste in Drakenstein prior to its collection thereof.

"The recycling companies in Drakenstein may make use of recycling opportunities prior to municipal collection of waste. Nothing is prohibiting them from doing so," said Leibbrandt.

[email protected]

Weekend Argus