City gags on dump smoke

2019-01-15 15:20
The New England landfill site has been on fire since Sunday and fire fighters say it will take a few more days to extinguish the fire.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA KHANYILE

The New England landfill site has been on fire since Sunday and fire fighters say it will take a few more days to extinguish the fire.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA KHANYILE

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Pietermaritzburg choked on smoke from the burning city landfill site on Monday and residents fumed about the health risks and being unable to breathe. 

New England Road landfill site manager Cyril Naidoo said it would take a few more days to extinguish the fire that started early on Sunday morning.

Nearly the entire complement of Msunduzi firefighters were trying to put out the fire on Monday. Naidoo said the cause of the fire had not yet been established.

While fires at landfill sites are a common risk, Naidoo acknowledged that the broken compactors at the site increased the risk and extent of the fires.

“Compactors are an essential part of the operations,” he said.

He said while measures are in place to limit fires, and to ensure swift response to outbreaks, it would be impossible to ensure that similar incidents never recur as they can be caused by surface heat source contact or deep spontaneous combustion.

Fed-up Sobantu residents expressed their frustrations at the “toxic dump burning for the umpteenth time”.

Resident Ncamisile Memela said: “Who knows how many people [will be] in hospital, again, with respiratory problems, and bleeding noses ... this health hazard must be moved out of town.”

Another resident, Sibusiso Mdluli, said air pollution from the site is having a serious impact on the health of families in the area.

“We are exposed to these chemicals daily and when the site catches fire we are suffocated by toxic fumes.

“This is what our children have been faced with for their entire lives … either they move the dump or take the necessary measures to eradicate the air pollution,” said Mdluli.

“I have two small children and I know for a fact that the smoke and inhalation of the toxins affects their health,” Mdluli added.

Commenting on The Witness Facebook page, Kate Watts said: “It reeks, and everyone is coughing and sneezing. Asthmatics having a hard time all the way in Wembley.”

Audine Jacobs, also from Wembley, said it was “absolutely horrible”.

“Everything smells really bad. They need to do something about this dump. I think we need to sue the municipality for our medical bills,” said Jacobs.

A school principal said: “We had to close for a few days last year because there was so much smoke in the air and it was difficult to see anything. There is also a stench from the dump that comes over the school from time to time. It is of high concern and is not healthy for pupils,” she said.

Sipho Ngcobo of Msunduzi fire department said the situation was being monitored in the nearby plantation in case smouldering trees re-ignited.

He said the dump site fire was difficult to put out as fire fighters had to turn the waste whilst damping it down.

“The fire is so deep seated that it is not easy to get through it. Right now, we have all the support services there and fire fighters there who will continue to work throughout the night to extinguish the fire.”

Ngcobo said 87% out of their 60 fire fighters had been dispatched to the site.

Adding to the difficulties, “quite a few of our trucks [got] punctures in that area and we have been changing tyres at the landfill site. This has also been delaying the process, we have two of our trucks that have four punctures and each tyre costs about R30 000,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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