THE contents of a pre-compliance notice sent by the Green Scorpions to Ndlambe municipality were finally revealed this week, months after the notice was served on the municipality for contravention of environmental regulations.
The notice relates to an investigation into the burning of rubbish at the Marselle/Bushman’s River dump, but when officials from the department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism (Dedeat) visited the site, they found a litany of other problems.
To start off, the municipality has no permit from the department of water affairs and forestry to operate the dump site, which has not been registered.
According to Dedeat’s records, the dumpsite was commissioned in December 1999, but Ndlambe never completed the necessary paperwork to get a permit, and it has contravened a number of conditions in the original environmental authorisation.
None of these problems might have come to the attention of the Green Scorpions had it not been for the persistence of Kenton resident David Burr, whose property is across the Bushman’s River from the dumpsite, and who has endured noxious smoke from burning rubbish on numerous occasions over the past two years.
Burr contacted Dedeat’s compliance and enforcement unit after his letters to the municipality went unanswered and the director of community protection services, who is responsible for landfill sites, failed to take steps to stop the fires.
“The municipal employees from the top down have consistently shown that they are contemptuous of the environmental laws of South Africa and act with impunity on these matters,” Burr said.
In the strongly worded “notice of intention to issue a compliance notice” to the municipality, Green Scorpions senior manager Div de Villiers warned the municipality it could face a R5-million fine if found guilty of contravening environmental regulations for landfill sites.
Yet just 13 days after the warning notice was received by Ndlambe, there was another large fire at the dump, with the smoke again spreading over residential areas.
When Burr reported it to De Villiers, the latter thanked him, but apparently took no further action.
Earlier De Villiers told TotT: “It’s a quite a long process when one government department is dealing with another. We give warning notices and warning letters.”
Frustrated with how even the Green Scorpions are “hogtied” by government protocol, Burr has opened a case with the police.
It seems the Green Scorpions have less of a sting when it comes to dealing with non-compliant organs of state, and Burr is rightly disappointed with this situation.
He is also correct that even if the Green Scorpions do fine the municipality, ultimately it is the ratepayers who will pay.
At least Ndlambe has taken some steps to properly manage the dump site, and is in the process of applying for a permit, albeit 13 years late.
Whether there will by any consequence for years of environmental law-breaking remains to be seen.
– Jon Houzet