'We can't breathe': Residents still affected by smouldering Panorama compost site

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  • Residents still affected by the smouldering Panorama compost site in Roodepoort.
  • This after a fire broke out at the site in September.
  • Environment and Infrastructure Services MMC Mpho Moerane said it could take a week or more before the smoke clears.

Residents of Weltevreden Park in Gauteng say they cannot breathe due to the smouldering Panorama compost site which caught fire on 29 September.

"We simply cannot breathe when the wind starts blowing. We are approximately 800m from the site. It gets so bad that we experience heavy breathing conditions, sore throats and headaches," resident Margaret Basson told News24 on Sunday.

"So, we don't know when it is Covid-19 symptoms versus the symptoms of toxic waste. Quite frankly, Covid-19 can at least be monitored and resistance can be built up, while breathing toxic waste can have long-term side effects," she said.

The City of Johannesburg recently apologised to residents who were affected by the fire.

WATCH | Joburg residents left with toxic, smouldering site after fire breaks out at compost plant

In statement on 13 October, Environment and Infrastructure Services MMC Mpho Moerane said "the smoke might take a week or more before it subsides".

When Basson contacted News24 on Sunday, she said the community still saw no sign of relief.

In summary, the community has the following questions for the City of Johannesburg:

1. How can anyone expect us to stay behind closed doors and windows in this heat, as we simply cannot afford to open up our doors or windows?

2. Why aren’t there fire brigade teams ensuring a 24/7 water spray over the burning site to put it out?

3. How can there be such a large dumping site in a suburban area?

4. Who is going to be held accountable  / liable for long-term diseases which will (not may) arise from this?

5. Where is the proof of environmental tests conducted to see the impact of this on all residents and shop owners’ staff?

6. Residents want confirmation that the so-called transformers that blew was the legitimate cause of the fire weeks ago.

7. Residents would further like to establish how many other residents around the Panorama dumping site (C/o HP and Jim Fouche) feel about situation?

On Thursday, Environment and Infrastructure Services told News24 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) had been on site since last Friday to fight the fire and would remain there until it was extinguished.

"The digging of the compost to firstly reach the bottom of the fire is progressing as planned and a new strategy of connecting the hose to two different fire hydrants to douse the compost has proven to be much more effective and has improved the strategy of fighting this fire.

"The reality of the matter is that work has been done in earnest and continues to be done with Pikitup having commissioned an excavator, two water tanks and one TLB [tractor loader backhoe] to spread, wet and extinguish the fire.

"EMS has commissioned two long hoses from the nearby fire hydrant to spray water to wet the compost faster with more power," Deputy Director: Communications and Stakeholder Relations Stan Itshegetseng said. 

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