Non-compliant Gamodubu landfill: a public health hazard

17 Jun 2019

Gamodubu residents are worried that the landfill in their vicinity poses a health hazard.

Residents have every reason to be concerned since the landfill does not adhere to the requirements of the Waste Management Act, the Guidelines for the Disposal of Waste and the attendant operational manual as observed by the Office of the Auditor General.

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, disclosed this after a performance audit of the Gamodubu landfill aimed at determining the extent of compliance to policies relevant for control and management of the landfill to ensure protection of the environment and the public from adverse health hazards.

She pointed out that in the ordinary order of things, daily operations at the landfill would be carried out under stringent regulations and standards designed to protect both the environment and public health, hence the importance of acquiring a license.

“It emerged from interviews conducted by the auditors at the Kweneng District Council (KDC) and the Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control (DWPC) that the Gamodubu Landfill has been operating without a license since it was commissioned five years ago. This was in breach of the Waste Management Act,” Letebele queried in her report.

So much that there have been queries about swarms of flies terrorizing the residents, unknown smoke engulfing the village from the boundaries of the landfill and littering of the environment by plastics and other undefined material.

To compound matters inspections on what goes into the landfill have been found to be intermittent and rarely documented for future referencing. Consequently there has been a misplacement of waste in the wrong cells thereby impacting adversely on proper disposal.

Letebele, disclosed this after a performance audit of the Gamodubu landfill aimed at determining the extent of compliance to policies relevant for the controlling and management of the landfill to ensure protection of environment from damage and the public from adverse health hazards.

She pointed out that in the ordinary order of things, daily operations at the landfill would be carried out under stringent regulations and standards designed to protect both the environment and public health, hence the importance of acquiring a license.

Following on from this, a number of violations were identified. These included the lack of a fully fledged incinerator for destruction of clinical waste which entails an attached testing and sampling component. The absence of a landfill gas monitoring system and ground water monitoring equipment featured equally prominently in the list of deficiencies. Again the audit revealed there was no proper covering and compaction of the disposed waste, as well as the non availability of fully functional equipment for any aspect of the operations of the landfill.

The effect of the absence of the incinerator testing and sampling component which is a requirement for licensing for example, means that there was no way that the Landfill authority could establish the toxicity of the gases emitted by the incinerator.

It was thus found by the Auditor General that the Landfill Management had not assessed the extent to which the gases impacted on the environment and the public.     

Further that clinical incinerators not operated in accordance with their design specifications emit black smoke, offensive odour and high dioxin level thus presenting risks to human health as well as wildlife and biodiversity.    

As if that was not enough, the auditors practically observed from the 13th to 15th January 2015 as part of their several years of auditing the facility, that visual examination of incoming waste was intermittent.

For instance it was observed that the Enumerators had not uncovered the whole vehicle to check the contents therein. On at least about 42 out of 65 vehicles they depended on the drivers delivering the waste for information on the nature of material contained. Consequently there was no proper coordination over the placement and safe disposal of waste as well as compacting.

Responding to the question why they were not licensed nor complied with required standards to qualify for licensing, Gamodubu landfill management kept could not provide a satisfactory response.

Though they admitted the facility has never been able to meet any of the relevant design and landfill operational standards from the onset, they claimed that they could not rectify the situation because the DWPC never handed them any of the documents detailing the observed gaps identified by the department’s routine audits as regulators.

On other instances references were made to financial limitations, quotes for tenders exceeding projected budgets and other excuses that would not convince the auditor. This is despite the fact that there is continued activity at the landfill and fear that at times there is excess delivery beyond what is described as the maximum annual rate of deposition (MARD).

The audit covered a period spanning six financial years beginning 2009/2010 up to 2014/2015.