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The Department of Environmental Affairs issues a notice of intention to suspend Enviroserv’s Waste Management license for its Shongweni Landfill Site

03 February 2017

 

The Department of Environmental Affairs has issued a notice of intention to suspend and/or revoke EnviroServ’s Waste Management License for its Shongweni Landfill operation site in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal.

The notice is prompted by the findings of a series of investigations by the Green Scorpions in collaboration with the eThekwini Municipality during January 2017, following a significant increase in receipt of malodour and health related complaints linked to the operations of the Shongweni Landfill Site.

Enviroserv has four calendar days from receipt of the notification to make representations as to why the Waste Management License should not be suspended and / or revoked.

Despite many interventions implemented by EnviroServ to comply with the instructions contained in the Compliance Notice, there is still an unacceptably high level of landfill gases being emitted from the Shongweni landfill site, which the authorities have confirmed to be the cause of many of the communities’ complaints.

During the early part of 2016, the Departmentstarted receiving intermittent malodour and health related complaints relating to the operation of the Shongweni Landfill Sitesituated in the Kwazulu Natal province and is being operated by EnviroServ Waste Management (Pty) Ltd (“EnviroServ”). These complaints were especially received from people living in close proximity to this site.

Being health and odour-related, several complaints were referred to local health authorities as at the time the company did not agree that they were the main source of the problem.  The DEA then undertook a compliance inspection in May 2016. After a meeting held in August 2016 between officials from the Department, representatives from EnviroServ, as well as members from the community situated in close proximity to the Shongweni Landfill Site, EnviroServ submitted a letter to the Department, containing various remedial actions for immediate implementation at the facility. 

The Department’s Deputy Director-General: Chemicals and Waste Management shortly thereafter issued EnvirServ with a letterof instruction which identified measures which needed to be undertaken immediately in order to reduce and mitigate some of the odour and health related issues.

In order to the address the issues raised in the aforementioned letter, EnviroServ provided the Department with an “11-Point Action Plan” which indicated how the facility will be implementing the measures and included, inter-alia, the extended suspension of the acceptance and disposal of all Type 1 wastes; a commitment to decant and dispose of all stored leachate and contaminated storm water, offsite; to convene an urgent Monitoring Committee meetings; to provide a detailed leachate and Storm Water Management Plan; to undertake a Toxicological study and Technical Assessment of the site and to provide a detailed inventory of all waste streams accepted by the site.

This “11 Point Action Plan” has since however been superseded by a Pre-Compliance Notice (“PCN”) in terms of section 31L of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (“NEMA”) and subsequent Compliance Notice (“CN”) dated 21 October 2016 which incorporated a number of the aspects stipulated in the “11 Point Action Plan” into the instructions contained in the CN.  These enforcement notices followed further inspections conducted in August 2016.

Since the CN has been issued, EnviroServ has provided proof of compliance in relation to certain instructions in the CN, while the timeframes for compliance with a few of the other instructions have been varied. A second variation request has also been received by the Department. The Department is also in possession of a suspension request, as well as an objection in relation to some instructions contained in the CN.  EnviroServ formally requested that certain instructions contained in the CN be suspended until the objection process has been completed. Both the suspension request and objection are currently being considered by the Director General and Minister, respectively.

At the same time as the Green Scorpions were taking administrative enforcement action in 2016, as an immediate intervention to fast track a resolution of the malodours, a decision was made by eThekwini Municipality to reduce the validity period of the Scheduled Trade Permit that was issued to EnviroServ.  The validity period of the permit is now being reviewed on a monthly basis instead of doing so annually. This was done in order to ensure that EnviroServ made significant and meaningful progress towards the resolution of issues contributing to off-site impacts.

In addition to the above-mentioned Administrative Enforcement actions,the Green Scorpions initiated a criminal investigation (case number: 132/09/2016) after asearch and seizure warrant was executed at the Shongweni landfill site in September 2016.  It was found during the search that EnviroServ Waste Management (Pty) Ltd had failed to comply with the provisions of environmental law and certain conditions of the waste management licence which was issued in terms of the National Environmental Management Waste Act, 2008.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is currently in the process of reviewing the docket and will thereafter make a decision on whether or not (and which parties) to prosecute.

For media queries, contact

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871