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Upper Highway doctors speak out against EnviroServ 'toxic fumes'

EnviroServ workers dig up a portion of the waste site to dump liquid waste. The hole is lined with lime and the waste poured in is also treated with the substance in order to lower its pH level. The company believes that the Desulfovibrio vulgaris sulfate-reducing bacteria is the cause of the odour that is plaguing the area. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

EnviroServ workers dig up a portion of the waste site to dump liquid waste. The hole is lined with lime and the waste poured in is also treated with the substance in order to lower its pH level. The company believes that the Desulfovibrio vulgaris sulfate-reducing bacteria is the cause of the odour that is plaguing the area. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Published May 21, 2017

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DURBAN - More than a dozen doctors, specialists and schoolteachers have come out in support of the Upper Highway Air (UHA) court bid to shut EnviroServ’s landfill site in Shong-weni.

In their affidavits, they have added their voices to the mounting allegations that the landfill emits “toxic fumes”.

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But EnviroServ has repeatedly rejected claims that the fumes had any negative health impact.

Last month, UHA was granted an interim order for the suspension of acceptance, treatment and disposal of waste on the site, but the date for the final court hearing is yet to be set.

In her affidavit, general practitioner Dr Yvonne Jean Reece said she believed there was a correlation between the stench from the landfill and the health symptoms experienced by her patients.

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“I have seen an increase in the incidence of allergic rhinitis and asthma symptoms in patients who have never struggled with this and have been exposed to the smell from the landfill. Some adults with no risk factors who never struggled before have now developed chronic symptoms,” it reads.

Dr Willem Vlok, who practises from Hillcrest Private Hospital, also expressed concern over an increase in admissions due to asthma, allergies and respiratory tract infections, especially in children.

“The hospital where I work is close to the landfill site and it feels counter-productive to treat patients in the wards while they are lying in the stench that contributed to their illness in the first place,” he added.

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“My son has developed generalised lymphadenopathy for no obvious medical reason. My wife has a constantly dry mouth,” said the father of two.

Paediatrician Dr Jayendra Narsai said the problem of the odour should be dealt with as a medical emergency.

“Children have recurrent episodes of bronchitis, nasal congestion, require repeated medication and even admission (to hospital) for bronchopneumonia due to persistent inflammation of airways from the petro-chemical odour.”

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Dr Hugh Staub, a neurologist, who has lived in the area since 2005, is outraged by what he described as “secrecy” surrounding operations at the landfill.

“They (EnviroServ) have also been secretive about the types of waste deposited there. If they were fully compliant and open about their circumstances there would be no need for secrecy,” he added.

Teachers and caregivers at Ingane Yami Children’s Village school, about 4km from the landfill, said they and the children had experienced bad sinus, headaches and sore throats since October.

“I have headaches daily and have had 11 migraines in the past two months, as well on-and-off nausea. This has occurred since January 3.  I can confirm the odour is the same smell that pervades the immediate environs of the landfill,” said Patricia Hoffart.

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SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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