Documentation and samples were seized from the Durban premises of a national waste management company that has been embroiled in ongoing controversy over a land fill site in Durban’s Hillcrest suburb.

Grant Waters from the Department of Environmental Affairs, speaking at a community meeting on Thursday night, said that the samples and documentation had been seized from EnviroServ’s Shongweni Landfill site premises in Hillcrest.

“We were executing a search warrant in terms of the criminal procedures act,” said Walters, who is the DEA’s Director Enforcement: Environmental Impact and Pollution.

He said that the DEA had not opened any criminal charges against the company, but that the seized samples of leachate would be tested by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSRI) to determine its composition.

EnviroServ’s Shongweni landfill has incurred the wrath of residents in Hillcrest, Shongweni, Dassenhoek, KwaNdengezi and surrounds, who claim that the company’s “toxic fumes” from the landfill have been causing nosebleeds, sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma and other health problems.

The company recently admitted it had breached Durban bylaws five times, but that these breaches had been administrative in nature. It has also admitted that it was a contributor to stench in the area.

Waters said that the CSIR test results, expected in about two weeks, would determine whether the DEA would proceed with a criminal case against EnviroServ.

Leachate is the liquid that drains from a waste site. It generally contains elevated concentrations of undesirable material from the waste.

The company has been granted a temporary permit to dispose of the leachate – after being treated with hydrogen peroxide – in the city’s southern sewerage works.

This has angered residents of the Merebank area, where the meeting was held, as the effluent from the plant is piped out four kilometres to sea.

EnviroServ chief executive Dean Thompson, in a letter distributed at the meeting, said: “We view claims we are damaging the health of people and killing marine life by dumping toxic waste into the ocean in a serious light. Making such claims is completely unfounded.

“The Shongweni landfill site does not dump any waste into the sea at all – ever. Our Effluent Treatment Plant is fully operational and can treat all the leachate which we have on site.

“However, we are following instructions by the Department of Environmental Affairs to speed up the process by emptying our leachate tanks and storm water dams and (as authorised by eThekwini Water and Sanitation) send this effluent to the Southern Waste Water Treatment Works for legal disposal.”

Thompson said that the effluent disposed of by EnviroServ made up a very small portion of the effluent disposed of by several other industries that used the sewerage plant.

Thompson told the African News Agency (ANA) on Wednesday that the DEA was investigating the possible contravention of certain site permit conditions and legislative provisions at the Shongweni landfill site.