DEA orders “leachate dump” into Durban sea stopped

The disposal of millions of litres of leachate from a Shongweni toxic waste landfill site by pumping it offshore of a popular fishing beach in Durban has been stopped.

Speaking at a community meeting in Merebank on Thursday night, Natasha Pillay of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Oceans and Coast unit, said a resolution was taken last week that disposal of EnviroServ’s leachate from its Shongweni landfill through the southern waste water treatment plant would be stopped.

The leachate and millions of litres of contaminated storm water was being treated [to kill germs, but not to remove poisonous chemicals] and then pumped through the southern treatment plant four kilometres out to sea, 60 metres below sea level, in the Cuttings Beach area.

“With regards to the existing leachate, we have advised the municipality to stop taking any more leachate, and we are waiting for feedback from the municipality that it has been stopped,” she said.

“There is a requirement that any discharge or any operator that is discharging into coastal waters, which includes estuaries, will have to have authorisation to do that. There are a series of requirements, including a series of technical and engineering requirements,” she said.

She said a coastal discharge permit would be issued in future, but with “very strict conditions” and would take into account the greater environment.

The temporary permit issued by eThekwini to dispose of the leachate and contaminated storm water at the treatment works was authorised by the DEA’s deputy director general of chemicals and waste management, Mark Gordon.

The “immediate disposal” of the leachate and contaminated storm water was one of 11 conditions the DEA had set for EnviroServ following hundreds of complaints by residents of Hillcrest, Dassenhoek, Shongweni and surrounds, who had complained of nosebleeds, sinusitis, asthma, nausea and vomiting.

Residents believe “toxic fumes” from the landfill are responsible for their ill health, something EnviroServ has strongly denied.

The company has, however, admitted that it is “a contributor to the malodours in the area”, but believes other industries in the vicinity are also contributors and should be investigated.

Marie-Louise Lume from the DEA’s environmental enforcement unit (Green Scorpions) told the crowd that other industries in the area were indeed part of the criminal investigation.

Residents from Durban south were infuriated when they learned that the leachate would be “dumped” into the sea in their area, and pledged solidarity with the inland Hillcrest and surrounds communities to “close down” the landfill.

Representatives from EnviroServ and eThekwini municipality were invited to Thursday’s meeting but did not attend.

Gordon confirmed earlier in the week that he would attend, but said on Thursday via email that he had other “urgent matters” to attend to.

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