Business / Business News

Antoinette Slabbert
4 minute read
1 Aug 2017
8:03 am

Residents join court dispute over landfill licence

Antoinette Slabbert

Health complaints valid – report.

The North Gauteng High Court on Monday granted an application by the Greater Midstream Forum to intervene in a dispute between the Gauteng environmental authorities and Interwaste about the validity of Interwaste’s license to operate the FG Landfill site at Olifantsfontein south of Pretoria.

This will give the residents who have been complaining about health issues related to air pollution in the Olifantsfontein area for the past two years a voice in the matter that could see operations at FG halted.

Moneyweb earlier reported that FG generates about 5% of Interwaste’s revenue and 10% of its profit.

The residents of Midstream Estate and other nearby areas have been very vocal about their belief that the air pollution is the result of Interwaste’s operations, but the JSE-listed waste company is disputing it.

Interwaste CEO Alan Willcocks earlier admitted to Moneyweb that the company had been “a bad neighbour”. Interwaste has however implemented wide-ranging mitigation measures and is no longer receiving mining company Lonmin’s waste that has been named a possible culprit, he said.

The license dispute was postponed in court on Monday to December 7, despite the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s objection.

This comes as Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa considers Interwaste’s appeal against a directive the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) issued in February ordering the closure of FG.

Interwaste appealed against the directive and the Greater Midstream Forum applied to the minister to close the site until the appeal has been finalised. She has not ruled on the Forum’s application and the site continues to operate.

The DEA has in the meantime commissioned independent experts to do further investigation. Moneyweb has seen some of these reports.

C&M Consulting Engineers provided a measuring platform for hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) in proximity to the landfill site and data was collected from April 18 to June 30 this year. The monitoring station was positioned about 400m north of the landfill site.

Airshed Planning Professionals analysed the results using meteorological measurements from the FG site. The consultants then identified the significance of each pollutant’s impact and the potential sources of pollution. Thereafter the H2S and SO2 emission rates at each source were estimated using atmospheric dispersion models.

The State Attorney’s office contracted Infotox to do a health risk assessment on the basis of C&M Consulting and Airshed’s results.

Infotox states in a report dated July 1 and signed by MD Dr Willie van Niekerk that SOconcentrations were found to be low and health risks associated with SOexposure were insignificant.

That was however not the case regarding H2S concentrations.

According to the report the respiratory and nervous systems are most vulnerable to high levels of H2S while cardiovascular effects have also been observed

Citing a variety of studies Infotox concludes that “the concentrations at which health effects may emerge lies roughly in the range 50 µg/m3 to 150 µg/m3 for 1-hour exposures.

Over the period measurements were taken, there were frequent exposures in this concentration range, Infotox states. It says not all individuals will experience health effects. Those who do might complain of headaches and nausea. “However, due to the frequency of concentrations well above the odour threshold, it is likely that there would be severe odour annoyance.”

There were 32 episodes of H2S concentrations higher than 150 µg/m3 during the period, some lasting up to four hours.

Infotox says: “It must also be noted that seven hourly incidents were above 300 µg/m3 of which a single value was as high as 457 µg/m3.” Although this concentration is not life threatening, the frequency of the measured concentrations in this range cannot be regarded as insignificant in relation to potential health complaints, Infotox finds. “Complaints of health symptoms such as headache and nausea in this exposure scenario cannot be regarded as invalid.”

The parties have until August 8 to respond to these new reports, after which the appeal should be finalised.

Interwaste’s share price rose by 1.3% on Monday and traded at 78c. The share has lost 30% of its value in the last six months. It is trading 3.75% lower than a year ago.

Watch a residents’s story here: 

Brought to you by Moneyweb