Staff at the Maun landfill have been blamed for the recent fire breaks at the site, which are believed to have been caused by smoldering waste which was allowed and dumbed and later catching fire.
Had the staff thoroughly inspected the incoming waste for segregation as is their role, the smoldering waste could not have found its way into the land fill, at least North West District Council (NWDC) authorities have acknowledged.
While landfill fire outbreaks are frequent in the waste management sites, extra caution is however required at all times to avoid such incidents. The environmental and fire management teams managed to contain the fire within a period of less than 2 weeks which started at the tip phase of the landfill on the 30th of August at around 10am.
During a recent media tour at the site, North West District Council (NWDC) Environmental Principal Officer Daniel Olerilwe acknowledged that the cause was failure to carefully check and segregate waste coming in for disposal.
He revealed that the fire was caused by hot ash that spark when dumped at the site. Olerilwe admitted that the gases that were emitted were very dangerous for human and animal health and the fire therefore needed to be stopped promptly.
The outbreaks are a concern to some Maun residents living along the Thamalakane River who are mostly affected by the smoke. “The entire area was engulfed in smoke and poisonous toxins emanating from the dump site the entire night. There people living all along river and surrounding area breathing in theses toxins,” one resident recently complained
He continued, “The burning of plastics releases toxic gases like dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as BCPs) into the atmosphere, and poses a threat to vegetation, and human and animal health. We need this issue to be addressed urgently and we also require a general awareness around Maun so that the local activists can get involved and provide assistance in this matter.”
Meanwhile Olerilwe noted that with the assistance of private companies they were able to stop the fire as they worked extended hours to speed up the urgency of the firebreak. “Companies that gave a hand were Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB), Unitrans, and Khoemacau who assisted with their machinery and man power,” he indicated.
He noted that the personnel were all provided with specialized personal protective equipment given the potential adverse effects of exposure to burning landfill contents or the smoke produced by a landfill fire. He further said that during that period, the landfill was not completely out of service since there was a temporary site availed to dispose waste material.
Going forward, Olerilwe said refresher courses for staff will be done in order to enhance their monitoring of potential fire sources, and also have tools needed to manage a fire readily available. He added that clearing dry vegetation that easily catches fire around the landfill will also be done regularly.