An interdict brought by a Durban community preventing national waste management firm EnviroServ from operating its Shongweni-based hazardous landfill site was lifted by the Durban High Court on Thursday.
Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel lifted the restrictive interdict claiming it had served its purpose.
An interim interdict had been granted by the same court in April 2017 in favour of grassroots non-profit lobby group Upper Highway NPC, which represents the areas in and surrounding Hillcrest and Shongweni. The interdict restrained EnviroServ from “receiving, treating and disposing of waste at the site, including the disposal of leachate into the waste body”.
During early 2016, the company received a spike in complaints about noxious odours and ill health from the community. By October 2016, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) issued a compliance notice to EnviroServ based on the complaints. They were instructed to cease with the disposal of hazardous waste at the site and run several environmental tests.
But by April 2017 the department decided “insufficient progress had been made” by EnviroServ in rectifying the issues and suspended the site’s licence. EnviroServ took the suspension on appeal.
The non-profit successfully applied for the interim interdict to stop the conditions of the department’s licence suspension from being lifted while the appeal was being finalised. The appeal was finalised in December 2017 and while EnviroServ did not succeed in having the suspension overturned, the DEA minister relaxed some conditions.
In the matter before Ploos van Amstel, the non-profit wanted the conditions stated in the interim interdict - which are more stringent than the new, relaxed conditions - extended until a review application had been finalised into why the department relaxed the conditions.
He stressed that the minister had not reinstated EnviroServ’s waste management licence for the site.
“She varied the conditions of suspension so as to allow the introduction of solid waste that is inorganic and contains no sulphur, subject to extensive monitoring, reporting and supervision.”
“It follows in my view that the applicant has not made out a case for the court to intervene [to extend the interdict pending the review application]. This does not mean that the interim interdict of 26 April 2017 should not have been granted. It has served its purpose. It was necessary because EnviroServ's appeal suspended the suspension of its licence. That appeal has now been finalised and the licence remains suspended, subject to the conditions imposed by the minister.
“I have come to the conclusion that the on going management of the Shongweni site should be governed by the minister and her department [and not the court]. For the court to effectively close the site will be to usurp the functions of the minister,” said Ploos van Amstel.
There was no cost order.