Toxic dumpsite at Chatsworth finally shuts down

17 November 2011 - After a long twenty year battle by environmental organisations and the Chatsworth community, the hazardous Bulbul landfill site permanently shut down on Tuesday, 15th November. Residents waited with bated breath as the gates finally closed. They will not have to endure the unbearable stench and the pollution caused by the toxins dumped daily at this site.

groundWork, The South Durban Community Environment Alliance and the Bulbul Drive Monitoring Committee were elated. They have strongly objected to the proposal of an Environmental Impact Assessment in 2009 which proposed expanding the lifespan of the site until 2021.

Community celebrate

After a hard-won battle, the Chatsworth community is looking forward to a future that does not contain Health and Safety related risks caused by the Bulbul dumpsite.

The major community concern was that toxic waste from Engen, Sappi, ships and other huge chemical factories all over KwaZulu Natal was being disposed at the landfill site. This has exposed the community to many underlying dangers. Poisons from the "legal" dumpsite will continue to contaminate the air and ground water for decades to come.

Learners and educators at the nearby Summerfield and Gitanjili primary school were often the victims of the pollution emanating from the dumpsite, and they had to be evacuated on several occasions. During one incident, learners from Gitanjili primary were hospitalised as a result of a gasing incident. Symptoms reported included coughing, vomiting, severe eye irritation and shortness of breath.

Schools in the area were at risk of being exposed to accidental gas cloud leakage from this hazardous waste landfill site.  This could lead to serious health effects such as immune and neurological disorders, cardiac failure which is secondary to lung injury, female reproductive difficulties and birth defects among children born to affected women. In extreme cases, it can even lead to death if proper safety procedures are not followed.

Schools celebrate Bulbul closure

Learners from schools affected by the polution celebrate the closing of the hazardous Bulbul landfill site.

Other noticeable health issues reported by residents of the area and associated with air pollution include asthma, bronchitis and allergies. The long term impacts of these "minor" health problems usually lead to serious, irreversible damage to the upper and lower respiratory organs causing incurable diseases such as chronic asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.

Residents, drivers and commuters will also feel safe as trucks will no longer be transporting hazardous waste through Chatsworth. Plans for the rehabilitation of the landfill site are underway. 

Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaigner commented that it is often previously disadvantaged and vulnerable communities who are victims of many environmental injustices. "Our aim is to provide support and work with organisations and the community so that implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies are followed. The closing of the Bulbul landfill site is a perfect example that demonstrates that when people come together and fight for what they believe in, justice will eventually be served," he said.