A number of trainers at the Summerveld training centre in Shongweni, KwaZulu-Natal, have expressed grave concerns about horses bleeding from their noses as an apparent result of toxic fumes emanating from the Shongweni Landfill Site, managed by Enviroserv, the waste management giant.
Since 2015, residents of the area have accused the corporation of being responsible for a multitude of illnesses including nosebleeds, asthma, bronchitis and headaches from the pungent fumes.
Trainer Paul Lafferty, whose stables are nearest to the landfill, said several of his runners have been affected. He commented: “Every time the stench appears it blows into my stables first as we are on the perimeter. Horses come back bleeding profusely after just cantering on the track, which is not normal.”
Lafferty said that members of his staff were also affected: “When the fumes blow in on a bad day, my head lad’s face swells up and he seeps from his skin. His condition has been diagnosed as Baritosis, which usually develops in people who chronically inhale Barium Sulfate dust.”
Assistant trainer Roy Waugh said: “We have a mountain-to-sea breeze in the early morning and a sea-to-mountain breeze in the late morning so horses and staff are always exposed. Our fillies, especially, lose their confidence after bleeding, it has long-term psychological effects which can extend to the broodmare paddock with ramifications for the stud book. This landfill has to go away, it is the only toxic waste site in KZN and it can destroy our training centre!”
The department of Environmental Affairs last year closed down the Eviroserv site, stating that they had suspended the treatment and disposal of waste because of an unacceptably high level of gasses that had been confirmed to be the source of the bad odour.
In April 2017, the Department found that Enviroserv had failed to comply with the laws and conditions of their landfill licence and said that they’d taken “a significant step to a permanent solution to a catastrophic situation.”
Court dates have been set and postponed since November 2017 and in the interim Enviroserv received permission to use the site again with a variety of restrictions imposed.
Trainer Tony Rivalland, Estate Manager for Summerveld, noted: “When Enviroserv’s licence was revoked the smell went away for a few months until it came back again recently. Enviroserv has reportedly pointed to the smelters in the industrial area of Westmead (near Pinetown) as being to blame, saying that the offending fumes are blown up the valley from Westmead into Shongweni. We are worried, however, our horses are suffering.”
Air quality NGO Upper Highway Air last week brought legal action against Enviroserv to interdict and restrain the company from conducting any of its licensed activities at Shongweni. The NGO filed a combined summons in the KZN High Court (Durban) against Enviroserv, its managing director Dean Thompson, technical director Esmé Gombault; the Minister of Environmental Affairs; the Minister of Water and Sanitation; the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs; and the eThekwini Municipality.
The NGO has asked for relief that in the event of the Environmental Affairs Ministry not suspending or revoking Enviroserv’s licences, the company should be interdicted and restrained from conducting any waste management activities at Shongweni, except to carry out remedial action if necessary. Thompson confirmed having received the summons and said: “Our lawyers are reviewing the charges and will respond in due course”.
Meanwhile the Green Scorpions’ criminal case against Thompson and the senior directors of Enviroserv has been adjourned until 30 November.