A supporter of EnviroServ holds up a placard. File PICTURE: Terry Haywood Photography
DURBAN - AFTER eight months of not operating, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa last week granted EnviroServ permission to accept, treat and dispose of solid waste at its controversial Shongweni site.

However, the waste management giant has to go through the Durban High Court as the civil group, the Upper Highway Air (UHA), was previously granted an interdict preventing the site from reopening.

The landfill site’s operational licence was suspended in April following thousands of complaints from residents who alleged “toxic” emissions from the hazardous waste site were making them and their pets ill.

During the suspension, EnviroServ implemented remedial and mitigation work, whose results motivated Molewa’s decision to conditionally lift the suspension.

She said the pH had increased significantly and the levels of the odour-causing compound, hydrogen sulphide, had decreased from about 160ppm (parts per million) before the implementation of various measures at the site to around 26ppb (parts per billion) after the implementation.

Molewa acknowledged the UHA’s queries on the veracity of the air quality monitoring results as well continued health impact and odour annoyance complaints from some residents living in proximity to the site, but said EnviroServ had demonstrated sufficient progress in the interventions “to warrant partial relaxation of its suspension notice”.

She said EnviroServ may not recirculate toxic liquids - leachate and contaminated storm water - into the waste body. The company was already taking leachate to the Holfontein site in Gauteng, while the treated storm water was being discharged into Cuttings Beach via eThekwini Municipality’s Southern Wastewater Works, near Merewent.

Molewa has instructed EnviroServ to continue monitoring the volatile organic compounds, especially in light of the measures being implemented which had not resulted in a reduction of complaints from the residents.

EnviroServ’s Thabiso Taaka on Thursday told the site’s monitoring committee meeting that the minister’s decision showed that the company’s confidence in the government and their remedial action was justified.

“We are driven by facts, not opinion, and the body of scientific evidence at our disposal shows that the odour has subsided significantly,” he said.

UHA lawyer Charmane Nel said her client had concerns regardless of the DEA’s appeal and maintained it was inappropriate for EnviroServ to address the Minister with information outside the appeal process.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE