Update: Hillcrest smell

The company accused of a foul smell in Durban’s mink and manure belt, allegedly leading to severe health problems, has denied all liability - after testing the air quality for just 15 days.

Enviroserv, which operates a chemical dump landfill site in Hillcrest, claim the tests show “the average ambient airborne concentrations of selected priority contaminants measured are unlikely to pose a chronic health risk to residents”.

But environmentalists, the Hillcrest community and even the city believe the findings are not good enough calling it “junk science” and “green washing”.

Noseweek previously revealed (nose199) that residents had complained of a “thick pungent gas and chemical smell” leading to “nausea, vomiting, headaches, coughing spasms, eye redness” and “generally feeling revolting”, beginning in November 2015. They said there is “no doubt” Enviroserv’s chemical waste dump is the source of the smell claiming their noses told them so.

At a recent public meeting held at the Assagay Hotel in Hillcrest, the company presented findings by GeoZone Environmental, which cleared them. Instead it shifted the blame to any number of sources ranging from the Shongweni wastewater treatment plant, Transnet’s diesel and petrol pipelines which have burst twice since 2014, the Department of Transport, shack dwellers, a Denny Mushroom plant, a composting factory or the nearby N3 highway.

Enviroserv’s group technical director Esme Gombault said: “Our information from the site [doesn’t make us believe we] are responsible for this. I can say from our information we are not experiencing what the community is expressing,” said Gombault.

GeoZone, using a passive sampling system measured for benzene, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and formaldehyde. They are to undertake two more test windows.

Environmental campaigner Rico Euripidou from Pietermaritzburg-based GroundWork has rubbished the findings claiming the data set used was too small and insignificant to make the assumptions Enviroserv have made.

What [Enviroserv] has done is not fit for purpose. You can’t compare a two week sampling to a one year benchmark such is the case in measuring benzene. This methodology shouldn’t fly. This sounds like managing dissent,” said Euripidou.

Desmond D’Sa, (nose198) a globally recognised environmentalist, called on Enviroserv to either provide more conclusive data or face “being shut down”.

Bruce Dale, a senior air quality manager at the Durban Metro said they are investigating the complaints and monitoring Enviroserv’s air tests and methodology closely.

“Their first 15 day sample didn’t link to complaints. If they are going to test benzene it should be tested all year round to get a fair reading.”

He said despite all the measuring technology available the “Nose is the best” at smelling out a pong.

We agree.  

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