Giant waste firm accused of bribery
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.