Soil tests at smoking site

A pall of pungent smog hangs above the Merrivale area due to smouldering waste that has been buried alongside a disused Howick trainline.

The waste, which is made up of material from discarded brake linings that were dumped at the site years ago, began burning nearly two months ago.

Several efforts to extinguish the fire have been unsuccessful.

The acrid smell affects the Merrivale area, as well as parts of Howick West and Sakabula. The train track runs alongside Upfold Road.

Businesses near the waste have tried dowsing it with water, and have also buried it in sand, to no avail, and plumes of smoke continue to rise from the dumped linings.

TMD Friction, a business located adjacent to the train tracks, yesterday deployed a geologist to take soil samples for testing.

While it is unclear how the brakes were ignited in the first place, residents believe it was due to gardening services burning overgrown grass around the train tracks.

A Howick councillor, Janis Holmes, said she was alerted to an awful smell in the area a month ago.

“I drove around the area trying to find the source of this smell and couldn’t see anything. It’s tough to find because of where it is located.”

Holmes said she was then alerted to the exact location by a resident.

“It stinks out the entire area,” she said.

“It affects all surrounding areas, depending on which way the wind blows.”

Rene Buys, a resident in nearby Sutton Road, said the smell is there all day.

“For the last two months it’s been unbearable.

“It’s a poisonous smell that hangs around.

“And, in the morning when you pass the [train tracks] you are hit with a concentrated smell because it doesn’t get blown away at night.”

She said that site was notorious for illegal dumping, and she believes people and businesses have been dumping things like brake linings there for more than 20 years.

TMD Friction said in a statement that it was working closely with the Howick fire department and the uMngeni Environmental Agency and a private consultancy to deal with the waste.

The company said it was not the one that dumped the brake linings.

“... We have acted both responsibly and in accordance with the law and all waste removed from the site has been responsibly disposed of.

“As part of its investigation, TMD… will be taking legal advice regarding the dumping of linings and will seek to hold those [who are] responsible accountable for their actions.”