Municipal spokeswoman Thobeka Mafumbatha said the city together with the Umgungundlovu District Municipality was looking at alternatives – but that it entailed costs as well as a myriad of legislative, geotechnical, environmental and economic challenges and will take time.
Last Thursday, a massive fire broke out at the landfill site, leaving the city to smoulder in smoke for more than three days. The fire was eventually put out by the municipal fire department, volunteers and Working on Fire members on Sunday afternoon.
Landfill fire chokes city – hazard forces local schools to close
Mafumbatha said while she was aware that there was a petition circulating to close the landfill site, she said it would be folly to do so presently.
“The landfill site is a strategic jewel in the city’s crown. It is centrally situated and costs to dispose of refuse are minimal. Closing the landfill site can only be done if an alternative site is readily available. As no such site exists, it would mean transporting our refuse to another district or city and the costs of waste management could at least quadruple,” she said.
Confirming the city’s open door policy, Mafumbatha said the city would meet with residents and other concerned parties to listen to their frustrations and concerns.
“All constructive and positive suggestions will be welcomed. In due course the city will release a comprehensive plan to deal with the challenges of the landfill site, its importance, alternative plans and a comprehensive waste management plan,” said Mafumbatha.
A concerned resident David Catherine commenting on Facebook said the municipality had to sincerely revisit the feasibility of having a dump site in close proximity to residential areas and businesses.“People simply cannot evacuate their homes or places of business. They are forced for days on end, to inhale toxic fumes that are a severe health hazard. It is long over-due that we re-evaluate the outdated twentieth century of a “dump site”, or the management practices that allow it to become such. Let’s see effective waste management preventative measures, rather than on-going excuses and empty rhetoric after each fire incident,” said Catherine.
Landfill fire update
Still investigating the cause of the fire, Mafumbatha said they had no evidence to point to an exact cause.
“The cause of the fire has not been determined at this stage. In the process of putting out the fire any evidence would have been destroyed,”she said.
Admitting that it is “near impossible” to ensure that there are no further fires, Mafumbatha said a fire at a landfill site was a risk associated with landfill site operations and that it was a common occurrence.
“Landfill fires vary in scale from minor outbreaks on the surface, to large incidents with uncontrolled atmospheric emissions arising from these fires. Landfills are very largely comprised of combustibles such as plastic and textiles, which maintain their fuel value into virtual perpetuity,” she said.
While measures are in place to limit the occurrence of landfill fires, and to ensure swift response to reported outbreaks, Mafumbatha said it would be near impossible to ensure that similar incidents never re-occurred in the future as they could be caused by surface heat source contact to deep-seated spontaneous combustion.
“The landfill site is a very important and strategic asset and must not be treated lightly,” said Mafumbatha.