Ricochet News

George Municipality tries to mitigate regional landfill site implications

Jul 18, 2017
George Municipality tries to mitigate regional landfill site implications

While concerns regarding the unaffordability of a proposed new regional landfill site remain seemingly unaddressed by regional and provincial government just 14 months ahead of its enforced use, the George Municipality is investigating and implementing several measures to try and minimise future refuse tariff hikes of up to 121%.

The George Municipality is one of four local authorities in the region which have concerns about projected costs of establishing and maintaining the new joint landfill site, which they consider unrealistically high yet are forced to participate in to comply with national environmental legislation.

The matter was highlighted during a George Municipal Special Council meeting on Monday (17 July 2017) when a motion was tabled to apply for R17-million from the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning to provide for the deficit the municipality would be unable to pay towards the establishment of the landfill site over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years.

The motion was kept in abeyance to garner additional information, which councillors requested to inform the greater issue and will be tabled again in due course.

George Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said issues surrounding waste management and landfill were multi-faceted and required inter-governmental co-operation and financial solutions from all roleplayers.

“The municipalities recognise the need for a regional landfill site and have been working very hard on our side to come up with solutions that will reduce costs,” said Mr Botha.

The background

Rapid population growth of the city and region has impacted on all aspects of municipal services for most local authorities. More people means more waste, which saw many municipalities dealing with waste far exceeding its relatively small disposal and landfill sites. In Eden, as landfill sites reached capacity, municipalities had to construct transfer stations and contracted to Petro SA to deal with excess waste, but this site too is reaching capacity and will close by the end of August 2018.

The implications of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, which requires massive reductions in waste and landfill space, has led to instructions from the Department of Environmental Affairs that local authorities participate in a joint regional landfill site (as opposed to each constructing its own) – with the ultimate purpose of reducing waste to the absolute minimum.

The Eden District Municipality commissioned studies into the identification of suitable land and cost estimations for a proposed regional site. Considerations for determining suitable land included soil formation taking into consideration factors such as the ability to safely, dig deep, the site location in relation to residences, and space large enough to contain the waste of at least four municipalities including George, Mossel Bay, Knysna and Bitou (Plettenberg Bay).

Eden District Municipality indicated that cost percentages were, among other things, based on projected waste per municipality.

In May this year, Eden District Municipality communicated that the site had been purchased and the estimated annual costs for George Municipality will exceed R31-million – which is significantly more than the R11-million budgeted for 2017/18 (which is already a 15% hike from the previous year to alleviate the expected impact of using a new regional refuse landfill site) and R14-miilion for 2018/19.

In Monday’s meeting, Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said the affected municipalities were concerned that important operational matters – such as waste reduction efforts, consultant fees, asset procurement, operational costs and timeframes – were not being addressed satisfactorily in previous presentations. The concern is that some of the unspecified costs could have been avoided or addressed differently to reduce the contributions the municipalities are expected to pay.

The concerns are exasperated by the fact that, while the municipalities are individually and together taking significant steps to reduce future waste tonnage and overall costs, the capital outset for the establishment and maintenance of the site will have a significant impact, irrespective of tonnage.

The Eden District Municipal Managers Forum has appealed to the Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, to assist in the matter and minutes of forum meetings are provided to his office. To date Provincial Treasury has not issued the relevant certificate with regards to the unaffordability of the project to the relevant municipalities.

George Municipality’s stance and plans

The George Municipality recognises the need for a regional landfill site, but is highly concerned about the current proposed financial implications. However, the municipality is not going to wait until the matter is resolved or addressed, to start working towards waste reduction and other solutions.

The George Municipality will therefore be intensifying all waste reduction measures, including:

  • The extension, in this financial year, of the current George Waste Transfer Station to incorporate a recyclable materials sorting facility and a composting site
  • Inter-municipal co-operation with other municipalities to maximise resources and reduce overall costs
  • A concerted effort to involve Hessequa and Oudtshoorn municipalities in the hope to split joint costs by six instead of four. (Hessequa has an estimated 3 to 6 years’ landfill space and Oudtshoorn 20 to 30 years’ available landfill space)
  • Investigations into various waste recycling opportunities and related income streams
  • Investigations into waste-to-energy solutions
  • Intensified awareness and waste reduction campaigns

·           The pursuit of public-private partnerships to create jobs and income along as many waste streams as possible