Gi­ant waste firm ac­cused of bribery

The Witness - - NEWS - NOKUTHULA NTULI

WASTE man­age­ment gi­ant En­vi­roServ has been ac­cused in court pa­pers of brib­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers as well in­ter­fer­ing with the hu­man health risk assess­ment and tox­i­col­ogy re­port on its Shong­weni land­fill site.

For the past two years res­i­dents from Dassen­hoek, Hill­crest, KwaN­dengezi, Shong­weni and sur­round­ing ar­eas have been al­leg­ing that the fumes from the haz­ardous waste site were mak­ing them sick.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs (DEA) re­vealed un­ac­cept­ably high lev­els of hy­dro­gen sul­phide, which prompted the depart­ment to sus­pend En­vi­roServ’s waste man­age­ment li­cence last April.

This was ac­com­pa­nied by a pend­ing crim­i­nal court mat­ter against En­vi­roServ and its chief ex­ec­u­tive, Dean Thomp­son, group tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Esmé Gom­bault, group tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ist Dr Jo­han Schoonraad and coastal man­ager Clive Kidd.

The Durban high court also granted the civic group Up­per High­way Air (UHA) an in­ter­dict pro­hibit­ing En­vi­roServ from ac­cept­ing, treat­ing or dis­pos­ing of all types of waste.

En­vi­roServ im­ple­mented re­me­dial ac­tion, which led to the par­tial lift­ing of the sus­pen­sion, to only solid waste, in De­cem­ber.

The com­pany has since ap­proached the high court in an at­tempt to get the in­ter­dict lifted, but the UHA and some res­i­dents are deter­mined to fight them and keep the site closed.

In a court af­fi­davit filed by UHA’s di­rec­tor Lau­ren John­son on Fri­day, she ac­cused En­vi­roServ of mis­lead­ing the DEA into re­lax­ing the sus­pen­sion by in­ter­fer­ing with the re­port of an in­de­pen­dent spe­cial­ist, Dr Wil­lie van Niek­erk.

Van Niek­erk was tasked to con­duct a hu­man health risk assess­ment of the gases emit­ted by the land­fill.

John­son al­leged that his fi­nal tox­i­col­ogy re­port was il­le­gally wa­tered down so as not to raise alarm and to mis­lead the DEA and the court on the health im­pact of the emis­sions.

She fur­ther al­leged that En­vi­roServ “bought out” some com­mu­nity mem­bers in or­der for them to in­flu­ence the de­ci­sions of the mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee meet­ings and bran­dish plac­ards dis­cred­it­ing UHA dur­ing court ap­pear­ances.

En­vi­roServ is also ac­cused of ma­nip­u­lat­ing the emis­sions mon­i­tor­ing ma­chines that have been set up on the land­fill site and res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

She said all the al­le­ga­tions have been re­peat­edly brought to the at­ten­tion of Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Edna Molelwa, as they are in breach of En­vi­roServ’s li­cence con­di­tions, but no ac­tion was taken.

En­vi­roServ spokesper­son Thabiso Taaka de­nied the al­le­ga­tions made against the com­pany. “If any­one has in­for­ma­tion about the al­leged bribes then they must re­port the mat­ter to the po­lice be­cause that is a crime.

“From where we are stand­ing, this seems to be just a de­lay tac­tic be­cause UHA knows that we want to get the sus­pen­sion lifted so that we can re­open the site, some­thing which they are ob­vi­ously against,” he said.

How­ever, in Mon­day’s re­spond­ing af­fi­davit, Gom­bault con­ceded that she au­dited the data and some of the in­for­ma­tion UHA is en­ti­tled to was not pro­vided. She said her at­tor­ney will fol­low up to en­sure that UHA gets the said in­for­ma­tion.

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