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Eastleigh fire puts safety in the spotlight

"The city needs concrete evidence that can be taken to court."

A recent fire which occurred at a business property in Easleigh has highlighted the importance of fire safety measures.

The fire occurred at a recycling business located on Plantation Road on the night of March 24.

According to information received from Ward 18 committee Member Michelle dos Santos, there were no injuries and two dogs were saved from the property.

The fire on Plantation Road.

It is believed the fire started at approximately midnight, with Edenvale, Bedfordview and Primrose fire stations attending the scene.

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Bedfordview and Edenvale News are still attempting to gather information from the Department of Emergency Management Services to ascertain what caused the fire and if there were any injuries or deaths.

While recyclers reduce the amount of recyclable waste in the city’s landfills all facilities whether focusing solely on papers, plastics or metal need to meet the requirements of several of the city’s departments.

To highlight community safety the NEWS spoke with shadow MMC for town planning Heather Hart to learn more about the intricacies of these particular businesses.

According to Hart the business where the fire occurred had been inspected by the city’s officials on numerous occasions.

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She said there had been rumours that the business was trading in metals, which it was not permitted to do, however, no evidence was ever found.

“Community members in the area raised concerns of scrap metal being traded at the property,” said Hart.

“They stated that fires were being lit at night and plastic was being burnt.”

She said all of this information was indicative that something unusual was occurring.

Hart said the information was sent to EMPD and Ekurhuleni’s Environmental Resource Management, however, no evidence of the fires or metal trading was found.

The remains of a paper and plastic recycling facility after a fire tore through the facility at the end of March.

Hart said additionally the business also had the correct paperwork to operate as a paper and plastic recycling facility.

Despite the concerns raised Hart said the City cannot accuse the business of any wrongdoing nor take action against it with the relevant evidence.

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“Enforcing environmental laws and bylaws can be difficult. The city needs concrete evidence that can be taken to court.”

Hart said whether it is a paper recycling facility or a scrapyard,, strict regulations need to be followed.

She said facilities need to be kept clean, material needs to be stored correctly and safely and the proper functional safety equipment must be available on the property.

Additionally, the businesses must meet the requirements of city planning, environmental planning, EMPD, DEMS and SAPS especially if they are a scrap dealer.

Hart said unlike paper recycling facilities scrap metal dealers are considered offensive industries, like abattoirs.
“These industries generally have to follow and abide by much stricter regulations.”

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She said facilities that may store dangerous material need to ensure that they are stored correctly to prevent the leeching of toxins into the soil or environment.

Similarly, unregulated practices at recycling facilities can lead to uncontrolled fires.

Hart said although most recycling facilities in Eastleigh appear to be abiding by the law there is one business of concern that is on the City of Ekurhuleni’s Radar.

A fire-fighter tending to the Plantation Road fire on the morning of March 25.

She also said that one of the biggest problems with recycling in suburban areas is the stripping of materials. Much of the unwanted or unneeded material is often discarded. This often makes its way into Edenvale’s river system further clogging the water network.

Hart appealed to residents to call upon emergency services when they witness possible contraventions at recycling facilities.

“Calls can be anonymous but rather let EMPD, the bylaw enforcement agency determine what is occurring,” said Hart.

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If the situation is less urgent Hart told residents to contact the customer’s care centre, city planning department, environmental resource management department or the local councillor.

A request for comment was sent to CoE’s DEMS on March 25 and on April 3 requesting comment by April 5.

At the time of going to print no comment was received.

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