POLICE are investigating alleged environmental crimes at the Marselle/Bushman’s River dumpsite, following a written warning issued to the municipality by the Green Scorpions.
Rubbish was being burnt at the dump in contravention of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) over the past two years, the toxic smoke from the fires making life miserable for a Kenton-on-Sea resident until he succeeded in getting the Green Scorpions to investigate.
David Burr of Summerwood Farm alerted the department of environmental affairs’ compliance and enforcement unit earlier this year after numerous letters to the municipality elicited little or no response.
Every time there was a fire at the dump Burr called the fire department, but he claimed they at first did not want to attend to fires in the dumpsite.
Eventually they did respond, but did not completely douse the fires, with the result the cinders kept smouldering and emitting smoke for hours.
Burr’s home is across the Bushman’s River from the dumpsite, and he said prevailing winds brought the smoke “directly into my premises”.
“This smoke is poisonous, toxic and a health risk to me, my family and other residents,” he said.
Department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism (Dedeat) officials visited the dumpsite on February 17 together with Ndlambe’s director of community protection services, Nombulelo Booysen-Willy and her deputy Fanie Fouche.
Three months later, on May 17, Dedeat compliance and enforcement senior manager Div de Villiers sent a “notice of intention to issue a compliance notice” to the municipality, based on Dedeat’s findings at the dumpsite.
They found a number of irregularities with the dump, in addition to the burning of refuse, and De Villiers listed them in his notice to the municipality, of which TotT has a copy:
- The municipality has no permit from the department of water affairs and forestry to operate the dump site.
- The dump site has not been registered.
- The municipality did not inform Dedeat whether the site was rezoned to an appropriate zoning classification and provide relevant details of the property.
- Failure to properly contain the waste on the landfill site so that the wind does not disperse it.
- Failure to facilitate recycling at the dump site.
- Failure to separate combustible and non-combustible waste on site.
- Failure to cover waste daily with a 150mm layer of soil.
- Failure to control access to the dump site.
De Villiers gave Ndlambe 10 working days to make representations in writing if the municipality believed there were any compelling reasons why it should not be issued with a compliance notice in terms of NEMA instructing the municipality to stop all waste disposal activities on site.
In his letter, De Villiers warned Booysen-Willy and municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni that “failure to comply with the conditions of an environmental authorisation for a listed activity” was an offence in terms of NEMA, and the municipality could face a R5-million fine if found guilty.
On May 31, just 13 days after the warning notice was received by Ndlambe, Burr reported another large fire at the dump, with the smoke again spreading over residential areas.
He called the fire department and said they responded but left the fire smouldering.
He alerted De Villiers and reminded him the fire was started after the pre-compliance notice was received.
Burr also opened a case with the police, and on Wednesday Ndlambe cluster commander Colonel Vuyile Gcaba confirmed police were investigating and would present the case to the director of public prosecutions (DPP).
“The DPP will sit with the department of environmental affairs before they make a decision,” said Gcaba.
Burr hoped the police would not be constrained by the same red tape as Dedeat.
“The Green Scorpions are somewhat hogtied with government protocol and guidelines when up against one of their own,” he said.
De Villiers did not respond to a request for comment, but in an e-mail to Burr, he acknowledged his most recent complaint and supported the involvement of the police in the matter.
Municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said: “The municipality is in constant communication with the department on this matter.”
He said the Marselle dumpsite was still in operation and the municipality is in process of applying for license.
A recycling area had since been constructed on the landfill site, he said, and access control is carried out by using a local security company.
“Due to budget constraints the municipality does not have 24 hour security at the site to date.”