Enviroserv officials in the dock over 'big stink'

2017-08-17 12:39
EnviroServ workers protested outside the court on Thursday morning. They say the case against their employer - in connection with the foul smell emanating from its Shongweni site - is putting their livelihoods at risk. The case of has been adjourned to later this year. (Tania Broughton, News24 Correspondent)

EnviroServ workers protested outside the court on Thursday morning. They say the case against their employer - in connection with the foul smell emanating from its Shongweni site - is putting their livelihoods at risk. The case of has been adjourned to later this year. (Tania Broughton, News24 Correspondent)

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Durban - EnviroServ CEO Dean Thompson and four other officials from the waste management company are now personally facing criminal charges relating to allegations that their Hillcrest landfill site is causing a noxious "big stink" in the area, west of Durban.

The alleged gases emanating from the site are said to be the cause of a spike in health issues in the area and have enraged residents.

Following action in the High Court in Durban, the site has now been closed down.

In the criminal matter, only the company was charged with contravening the National Air Quality Act. At the first court appearance, Thompson appeared as a representative of the firm.

But on Thursday, when the matter was back in court, Prosecutor Yuri Gangai confirmed to Durban Regional Court Magistrate Stanley Hlophe that Thompson was now being charged in his personal capacity.

Also in the dock with him for the first time were coastal operations manager Clive Kidd and group technical director Esme Gombault.

Group treatment and disposal specialist Dr Johan Schoonraad has also been charged, but did not appear because he is sick.

The public gallery was a sea of green T-shirts - worn by EnviroServ employees - and blue T-shirts worn by Hillcrest residents and clean air activists.

After the short hearing, the employees sang and chanted inside the building and outside on the lawn.

'What about our jobs'

They carried banners saying "what about our jobs" and "I have been working at EnviroServ for 25 years and I am here, healthy".

They told News24 that their jobs were at stake and the company had done nothing wrong.

The Hillcrest residents, their T-shirts proclaiming "go ahead, underestimate us", were quieter.

"We have a right to clean air," one shouted at the toyi-toying workers.

Gangai confirmed that the charge sheet had been finalised and the "voluminous docket, comprising seven lever arch files" had been given to the defence.

The preamble refers to a host of legislation, governing clean air and the environment which provides for massive fines - up to R10m - and jail sentences of up to 10 years for contraventions.

In total there are three counts:

It is alleged that during January 2015 to January 2017, the accused did not prevent the emission of an offensive odour, "similar to rotten eggs", caused by activities on their premises; that they failed to manage waste properly to ensure it did not endanger health or the environment; and that they failed to comply with a condition of their licence - to ensure effective access control to the site.

The matter was adjourned until November 17, when the defence is expected to make an application for further particulars.

It is unlikely the trial will proceed until next year.

Read more on:    durban  |  environment  |  pollution

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