- Water tankers;
- additional fire engines ;
- an additional plant excavator, and
- assistance with municipal security – to help manage the waste-pickers.
Is New England landfill a ‘real disaster’? White smoke billowed over the southern suburbs of the Pietermaritzburg CBD on Sunday morning after the local New England Road landfill caught fire in the second incident to hit news headlines this year. While residents in the area complained that “foul odours” resulted from the fire, they also indicated that landfill blazes at the site were common. Nearby schools St. Charles College and St. John’s Diocesan School for Girls are situated across the freeway from the landfill. In close proximity to the freeway are the boarding establishments of both schools which house several hundred pupils and supporting boarding staff. St. Charles school principal, Allen van Blerk, said that the number of incidences of the landfill catching fire have recently decreased. “I believe it has been more carefully managed in recent years,” he said. He explained that when the landfill does catch fire, “The boys are kept indoors and we close the windows. If we need to leave the premises we ask parents to collect their children and we bus our boarders off campus.” Simon Moore, St. John’s principal said it was “quite unusual that there have been two fires this year,” as he had not experienced any in his five years at the school. “If a fire at the landfill does catch fire, the school will immediately contact the landfill manager to establish the extent of the fire, the toxicity levels and the wind direction,” Moore said. “Once the school has that information, we will decide on an appropriate course of action to minimise effect on the staff and girls at St John’s D.S.G.”. He explained that the school was not affected by Sunday’s fire as “it was reported as being non-hazardous and therefore the school was deemed not at risk.” Both schools are generally affected by a landfill fire when there is a temperature inversion over the city, as the city lies in a valley. This inversion causes the wind to blow downward over most parts of the city. Media reports said that according to a source at the landfill site, the fire started at about 7 pm on Saturday night and continued into Sunday afternoon. Vagrants on site A source who has previously worked on the site told ReSource that although the landfill is “well designed” with “well informed management”, security was a problem. They said “a lack of government support and unskilled workers on site,” meant that security had failed, allowing vagrants to gain access to the landfill. “Once on site these scavengers start small fires, usually in winter to keep warm” they said. The source explained that the smallest of sparks could ignite large fires and added that management and operations difficulties could, at times, be characterised as a “real disaster”.