Three Tshwane landfill sites face closure unless the council takes charge
They are Onderstepoort and Ekandustria Bronkhorstspruit landfill sites, and Heatherley waste disposal facility.
MEC for Economic Development, Agriculture and Environment Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa has issued a notice against the metro telling it to comply or else.
In the letter, the MEC noted that the three sites were not compliant with the conditions of the permits/licences under which they operate.
“This failure to comply with the conditions of the permits/licences may lead to significant negative impact on the environment.”
A waste management expert who declined to be named claimed that Tshwane had some of the most non-compliant landfill sites in the country.
“Tshwane does not allocate sufficient resources to waste management in general and landfill management in particular and as such the landfill sites are too under resourced to be compliant.”
The MEC noted that the metro should “make a submission in respect of the intended revocation or suspension within 30 days”.
A well-placed source within the metro said that unless Tshwane tripled its budget, the sites would never be compliant. He said the biggest problem was that the metro did not allocate enough money to waste management because the sites were in townships.
At Heatherley waste disposal site, the source said the council had lost control of the facility.
“There is a criminal element operating there and metro officials are not allowed in and out of that site; it’s just lawlessness there. We cannot work on that site.”
According to the contractor, a vigilante group calling itself Boko Haram had moved in there for the past 10 months and "captured the site", forcing waste reclaimer co-operatives working in the area to pay a “mob fee” - which they paid out of fear.
“The metro cannot do anything, and we the contractors fear even more. I have lost millions in equipment being torched that side.”
An excavator, belt trucks and compactors were among his equipment lost, and he puts the value at more than R20million.
A waste reclaimer at the facility said revoking of the metro permits would adversely affect the lives of so called waste-pickers.
“We have seven waste picker co-operatives here; in total we are about 360 (people).”
He said he had been working there since 2006 and knew of the risks, but he like many others simply had no other choice. “There are children aged 17 working here instead of being in school because of the situation at home.
“Closing this place down would not help at all; it would just make poverty worse. We have been fighting to be formalised and we have marched to Tshwane House, but nothing has happened.”
He corroborated the point that safety was lacking at the site and that the metro was not in control of the situation.
The waste management expert reiterated the contractor’s point that to comply and achieve landfill compliance, the City would have to increase its landfill management budget substantially. Alternatively, he said it should properly capacitate the department or consider outsourcing the management of the landfill sites.
He said Heatherley was no longer safe for the public or city staff and contractors to access.
“It is overrun by informal reclaimers and access to the site and control is in the hands of ‘Boko Haram’.
“The City has also allowed development to happen on the buffer zone of the landfill which is in contravention of the permit and brings communities into closer contact with his highly non-compliant landfill site.”
The MEC’s spokesperson, Nombulelo Nyathela, said activities conducted on these sites could have a significant impact on the environment.
“Also, there could be ground water pollution, deterioration in the quality of air and possible odours which cause a nuisance and diseases.”
She said notices issued also looked at the health factor with regards to waste reclaimers, and the department was not aware of any vigilante group running the Heatherley site.
MMC for Environmental Affairs Dana Wannenburg said the City was waiting for a final audit report on landfill sites conducted by the department.