HCM toxic dam trouble

2011-11-04 00:00

HIBISCUS Coast Municipality (HCM) has been given 30 days’ day notice by the Water Affairs and Forestry Department (DWAF) to produce an action plan to reduce water pollution involving its Oatlands landfill site in Ramsgate.

The municipality was issued with a compliance notice from DWAF and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development for very high dam levels and a spill at its landfill site.

Both departments have representatives on the monitoring committee for the site and want the levels on the dams to be reduced.

On October 5 the leachate dam on the site overflowed into the contaminated stormwater dam, which in turn overflowed into a canal that leads into the Ibilanhlohlo River and into the Ramsgate lagoon.

A leachate dam stores toxic liquids and large amounts of pollutants.

Water quality manager at DWAF Renelle Pillay said, “The spillage is in contravention of section 19 of the National Water Act [Pollution Prevention]. We have issued HCM with specific directives to comply with.”

Pillay said HCM will have to put measures in place to safely lower levels in the stormwater and leachate dams.

She said the matter needed immediate attention as the danger of further spills is a cause for urgency during the rainy season.

When HCM built the new leachate dam in 2009 an electric leachate pump was not installed. The mechanism allows the contents of the dam to be pumped out on to the landfill site where it evaporates, keeping the dam at a low level.

Although the spillage and contamination of the lagoon are minimal, the stormwater dam has a much higher concentration of toxic waste.

The stormwater dam is almost filled to capacity, and controlled releases cannot be made to lower the level because of the toxic pollutants in the water. A similar spillage could occur during heavy rain, releasing pollutants into the lagoon and eventually on to Ramsgate beach, which has Blue Flag status.

HCM spokesperson Simon Soboyisa said, “The municipality would like to assure the residents of Ramsgate and the public at large that the situation is under control and there are no major threats. We are cautious of the situation and we are taking advice from the experts to ensure a long-term solution to the issue.”

He emphasised that Ramsgate Beach kept its Blue Flag status last week. “The Blue Flag status indicates a stable situation. I would like, however, to indicate that we acknowledge the possibility of contamination, which may have negative repercussions.”

HCM will hold a media briefing next week to address questions pertaining to the issue.

At the moment a small water pump is being used to pump out the toxins. Waste water management on site is treating the stormwater dam to reduce the contamination to acceptable levels that will allow controlled releases.

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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