A public participation meeting held yesterday 22 May 2017, at the Maidstone Country Club (Tongaat). Concerned community members filled the hall and raised their disputes and worries with the proposed Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP).
Tongaat Hullett formally known for its horrible odours and current mismanagement of its site has over the years significantly impacted on the health of surrounding communities. The health impacts such as asthma and sinusitis have been intensified. The residents accused Tongaat Hullett senior mill manager of being inefficient for having turned a deaf ear to the numerous complaints logged by the community. Amongst the burning issues in question were, “what are the reasons behind this development, why is this proposal to develop now public knowledge when the management committed to close the mill in 2015, Why is this still functioning when the commitment was made to close.
Why expand to treat effluent and waste when the grand plan was to exit the site. It is worrisome when a huge corporate chops and changes their plans for this shows that the company is lacking in sound management. The only understanding the community could come to is an ulterior motive of land been used as a brokering tool, displacing communities and uprooting them for the sole purpose of development and increasing their profit margin.
The Maidstsone residents clearly indicated that the consultants had failed dismally in its public participation process. There has been inadequate clarity surrounding this proposed development. The experts who developed the reports were not present thereby negating any prepared questions the communities had come with to pose to these experts .Their reports were summarized by the consultant who herself just noted down the volumes of questions that needed the responses from the drafters of these reports .Communities stood resolutley that there cannot be a rushed process when there is valued reasons why this EIA process time frame must be extended by a further three months as the residents were not happy to venture into the unknown by allowing this effluent treatment plant to get the go ahead. Critical issues were raised and neither could the consultant nor the Mill Manager answer the questions befittingly.
Communities claimed that the process of this public meeting was flawed on the basis of the consultants hosting a meeting in another area that would not be affected by this development. The “independent consultants – WSP Environmental” played both referee and player in the EIA process. The residents alluded to the consultants providing insufficient consultation with the affected communities. The meeting was advertised with a small poster in an area far from the affected residents, as a result the meeting was poorly advertised and not placed in local newspapers. Alarmed residents took the initiative to invite the relevant affected parties to this meeting to ensure that those affected could voice their opinions. Communities do not trust Tongaat Hullets and their reasons to build this Effluent Treatment plant for the mere fact that they cannot handle the current emissions being emitted from their site, the dust that collects on people’s homes, cars, and the atrocious odours. Residents reminded Tongaat Hullets Mill Manager Allan that, “Tongaat has a bad History and putrid reputation and has failed the surrounding communities since its construction”.
Communities came to an agreement and demanded the following to be done:
1. The Mill manager had agreed with communities on the basis that, a peer review needs to be done and paid for by Tongaat Hullets. That the Mill manager will take this up with his superiors and inform the community in two weeks.
2. The community proposed a site visit to see the state of the art technology proposed and where this technology is functioning as stated by the Mill Manager that there is a plant in Prospection.
3. The commenting period deadline stipulates that comments need to be made by the 31stMay 2017. Communities opposed this deadline and stated that, this is the first time that they have come to understand this proposed project, and in order for a peer review to be carried out time is needed and therefore we want an added three months extension to accommodate this process. (Tongaat Hullett‘s together with WSP Environmental will negotiate this with the department).