A study of air quality issues at the Bulbul Drive Landfill, South Africa.
A landfill impacts on the environment through various pathways. However, it is through the air that those living near the site experience most of these impacts. The Bulbul Drive Landfill is a hazardous waste disposal facility near Chatsworth and Umlazi in the eThekwini Municipality. The aim of this study is to assess ambient air quality issues in the region neighbouring the Bulbul Drive Landfill. Ambient air quality parameters were measured using passive sampling. H₂S concentrations were found to be below threshold levels and it is likely that odour issues are attributed to other components of landfill gas. These include benzene, 1, 2, 4-trimethyl1-ethyl-2-methyl; decane; heptane and tetrachloroethylene benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, dichloroethylene, dichloromethane, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene and vinyl chloride (Berger & Mann, 2001). The concentrations of gaseous pollutants did not exceed the relevant ambient air quality standards but cumulative effects and the applicability of averaging times need to be considered further. There was an incidence of non-compliance with the South African National Dust Control Regulation implying that fallout dust in the Bulbul Drive Landfill area has a negative impact on ambient air quality. An elemental analysis of dust samples revealed that there is a potential for heavy metal contamination on a larger scale. The results of the household survey showed that there were diverse and complex perceptions of air pollution amongst the residents of Chatsworth and Umlazi. Most respondents experienced dust, odour and poor visibility but the nature of this experience varied from Chatsworth to Umlazi. The presence of the Bulbul Drive landfill was acknowledged as a negative aspect of both neighbourhoods, respondents were happy that the landfill was closing. However, emission of pollutants from a landfill, be they solid or gaseous in nature, can be produced for 30 – 300 years after a landfill has closed. The communities of Chatsworth and Umlazi will continue to bear the burden of air quality risks associated with the Bulbul Drive landfill. Despite a shift in environmental governance in South Africa and attempts to address the uneven distribution of environmental risk, air quality management remains a challenge. An interdisciplinary approach is required to address the inequitable distribution of risks associated with air pollution. Policy makers and practitioners alike need to augment technical measurements with an understanding of the social dimension of air pollution.
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