Refuse sites filth worry

2011-10-11 00:00

THE shocking state of garden refuse sites throughout the city and empty promises from municipal officials that they will be cleared has prompted a number of residents in the city to look at charging the municipality for negligence and endangering their health.

There is growing anger at the contempt with which they are being treated and the lack of enforcement in charging illegal dumpers. Since last week, The Witne ss has been inundated with calls from irate residents.

Household rubbish dumped at these sites during the municipal workers’ strike in August — more than two months ago — is rotting, resulting in a stench permeating the air. Residents complain about rats running rampant, a maggot infestation and fat blue flies invading houses in the vicinity of the sites. There are growing fears of an outbreak of diseases.

The situation has reached a critical state at the Woodlands site where decomposing refuse has resulted in spontaneous combustion of the methane gas. Residents say the fire brigade has to be constantly called and that they are frightened by the popping of bottles and cans when the fires start as it sounds like a bomb exploding.

Ward councillors have complained endlessly, but even they seem to have had no effect. The councillors have been told by the city officials that they lack resources.

Councillor Mary-Lee Schalkwyk of Woodlands said she was told that the truck being used to clear sites had broken down and that the municipality did not have the appropriate equipment on hand. She fears for the lives of young children who are scavenging on the site.

Councillor Nithia Govender said after weeks of his badgering, some effort to clear the South Road refuse site in Northdale began last Wednesday.

With refuse at the Ritchie Road site in Pelham now spilling onto the road, councillor Vic Winterbach wrote to the administrator, saying that “the disgusting, health-threatening state of the garden refuse sites cannot be allowed to continue for a day longer”.

He said residents are owed an “urgent explanation for the deplorable situation”.

Former councillor and member of the Landfill Site Monitoring Committee, Candy Seymour, feels that Combined Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Associations can bring a class action suit against the municipality using the Environmental Act and the New Waste Management Act.

Environmental law expert Andrew Muir agreed that this was a distinct possibility, but said he would have to look at the relevant legislation to be certain of his facts.

Groundwork’s director, Bobby Peek, said residents in affected areas can also take council to court in terms of nuisance bylaws because they are putting people’s health at risk.

Councillor Mergan Chetty said he has written to the speaker’s office alerting him to the fact that the Community Services Portfolio Committee, which deals with critical issues like the garden refuse sites, the traffic department and the swimming pools, has not met for the past three weeks.

Council Speaker Babu Baijoo said the matter is receiving urgent attention.

Officials have been told to get the necessary resources to clear the sites and instructions have been given for the immediate arrest of illegal dumpers.

• thobani.ngqulunga

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