SABC News - ‘Toxic air’ company cosies up to community:Saturday 14 May 2016

‘Toxic air’ company cosies up to community

Saturday 14 May 2016 15:13

ANA

Residents from the massive Plantations Estate in Hillcrest – with about 700 homes – Gillitts, Botha’s Hill, and Waterfall say they have been experiencing nausea, headaches, and coughing spasms.

Residents from the massive Plantations Estate in Hillcrest – with about 700 homes – Gillitts, Botha’s Hill, and Waterfall say they have been experiencing nausea, headaches, and coughing spasms since November 2015.(SABC)

Waste disposal giant Enviro Serv is setting up a working committee in the wider Shongweni area, west of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal after more than 100 official complaints were logged on the company’s toll-free number about alleged “toxic air” emanating from its Shongweni landfill site.

In an email from “independent contractor” Brian Gibson on Saturday, members of affected communities who were at an Enviro Serv-facilitated meeting earlier this week were invited to establish a multi-disciplinary and representative working group, as discussed at the meeting with Enviro Serv senior management.

Residents from the massive Plantations Estate in Hillcrest - with about 700 homes - Gillitts, Botha’s Hill, and Waterfall say they have been experiencing nausea, headaches, and coughing spasms since November 2015, and that the smell has worsened since January this year.

Plantations residents have been the most vocal in their complaints and seem to be experiencing the brunt of the stench. They say the smell at the landfill is the same smell that permeates their homes and is not present at other industries in the area.

The smells come at short, intense peaks and then dissipates, they said.

Residents from Shongweni and Shongweni Dam townships have said they are also affected by the “chemical stink” but say they are unaware how and where to log complaints.

According to Gibson, “It is envisaged that about 10 community representatives will serve on the working group alongside independent air quality specialists and senior Enviro Serv executives.

“Meetings will be held as often as required by the members. The sessions would be held at a convenient location, lasting two to three hours. Enviro Serv hopes to establish the immediate, medium, and long-term priorities at the initial meeting,” said Gibson.

After an increase in complaints, Enviro Serv set up a passive air-monitoring device in Plantations Estate during April and collected the results two weeks later.

This was compared to data from other monitoring stations and data collected over the past 12 years, according to Enviro Serv group technical director Esme Gombault.

The findings were presented at the tense meeting at the Assagay Hotel on Wednesday night.

Gombault said the results showed: “The ambient air quality on the boundaries of the Shongweni landfill site and at the Plantations Estate posed a low general health or cancer risk to exposed individuals during the survey period”.

But highly regarded environmentalists who were present at that meeting rubbished the findings.

Rico Euripidou of environmental justice action group Ground Work called them “junk science” and Desmond D’sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance said the exercise was nothing more than a “box ticking” exercise for Enviro Serv.

“They first state that as a company they have been monitoring the site for years and then they only show two weeks worth of data, which cannot give you a real picture of how the residents have been affected,” said D’sa.

According to Euripidou and D’sa, to meaningfully understand the level of chemicals in the affected areas an incident response team must investigate and map the complaints and all peaks and troughs, including meteorological data, which would have to be captured over time.

Levels would have to be measured according to specific parameters.

Enviro Serv appears to have taken some of the advice of D’sa and Euripidou.

According to Gibson, they would conduct “further air quality surveys in the affected areas and at other potential odour sources, including short-term sampling of ‘peaks and troughs’ that can then be linked to odour complaints and weather data in an attempt to determine likely causes and solutions”.

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