PEOPLE living in areas surrounding Pomona dumpsite in Harare are facing a serious health risk with air pollution recordings around the rubbish dump reaching astronomical figures far exceeding Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) and World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended guidelines.
At some sites, pollution figures were more than 20 000% higher than the recommended figures, according to an Environmental Management Agency (Ema) report titled: “Report on ambient particulate pollution monitoring in the Pomona air shed”.
Air pollution has a serious impact on human health particularly children. It can result in severe respiratory diseases and the reduction of life expectancy.
Pomona is a dump site that is operated and owned by the City of Harare for the purposes of co-disposing solid municipal waste.
The area spans 100 hectares and is situated just north of Mt Pleasant and Vainona suburbs in Harare an area that is surrounded by residential areas, a recreational golf course and agricultural land.
The dumpsite lacks adequate pollution abatement mechanisms that are associated with engineered sanitary landfill such as leachate and methane attenuation controls. As a result, the dump has been cited as the cause of soil contamination, air and water pollution in surrounding areas.
The Ema report was compiled after the Pomona dumpsite fire outbreak in August 2020. The investigation was meant to determine the air quality at three selected locations focusing on PM10.
PM10 are very small particles found in dust and smoke that have a diameter of 10 micrometres (0.01 mm) or smaller.
The three sites included Sabau farm and Pomona Gate which were used to quantify the levels of contamination as well as the Borrowdale Police Station point which was used as a control.
“Site 1, Sabau, was located downwind at a farm house opposite Pomona dumpsite. The assessment revealed that 24-hr mean for Ground Level Concentrations (GLC) of PM10 at the sampling point was 11.659 mg/m3 which was 7 773% higher than the Standards Association of Zimbabwe’s 24-hour guideline of 0.15 mg/m3, while it was 23 318% higher than the WHO 24-hour guideline of 0.05mg/m3,” the report read.
The report also revealed that tests conducted at two other sites close to Pomona produced similar off-the-charts figures.
“Site 2 was located at main gate of Pomona dumpsite. The assessment revealed that 24-hr mean for ground level concentrations (GLC) of PM10 at the sampling point was 4.786 mg/m3 which was 3 191% higher than the SAZ’s 24-hour guideline of 0.15 mg/m3, while it was 9 572% higher than the WHO 24-hour guideline of 0.05mg/m3,”
“Site 3 was located at Borrowdale Police Station which is up wind of Pomona dumpsite. The assessment revealed that the 24-hr mean for ground level concentrations (GLC) of PM10 at the sampling point was 0.25 mg/m3, which was 167% higher than the SAZ’s 24-hour guideline of 0.15 mg/m3, while it was 500% higher than the WHO’s 24-hour guideline of 0.05mg/m3,” the report read.
Exposure to high concentrations of PM10 can result in a number of health impacts ranging from coughing and wheezing to asthma attacks and bronchitis to high blood pressure, heart attack, strokes and premature death.
The effects of PM10 have also been demonstrated to be cumulative and non-reversible, hence the recurrence of air pollution episodes associated with the dump could result in the development of chronic conditions.
The report also highlighted that people living close to the dumpsite were at serious health risk.
“Air quality is an important determinant of public health. Air pollution from the recurrent fire incidents at Pomona dumpsite poses a health risk to the people who either reside or work within its environs. Due to the cumulative and non-reversible nature of PM10 exposure, its effects may be felt long into the future.
“This presents an urgent need for intervention in order to protect people’s constitutional right to an environment that is safe, clean and healthy. While the study focused on particulates, dumpsite fires are often associated with other toxics that may further compound the situation and thus warrant further investigation,” read the report.
Air pollution emanating from dumpsite fires has been demonstrated to contain toxins such as dioxins, furans, suspended particulate matter (SPM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen sulphide (H2S).
A WHO report titled Air Pollution and Child Health states that children risk suffering from life-threatening respiratory problems when exposed to air pollution.
“Air pollution causes over half of all deaths from acute lower respiratory infections in children under five in low- and middle-income countries, childhood exposure to air pollution by inhalation is associated with disease later in life,” the report reads.
“Exposure to various pollutants, including black carbon, PM2.5 and PM10, is linked to the development of asthma in children (7–9), presumably due in large part to the generation of oxidative stress and airway inflammation (10). Research also indicates that PM may cause systemic inflammatory and immunological responses and remodelling in the lungs.
“Air pollution cuts so many lives short, but it can also lead to health burdens that last a lifetime. Exposure increases the risks of adverse birth outcomes, neurodevelopmental disorders and reduced lung function. In addition to respiratory infections, it is also clearly linked to a higher risk of developing asthma, a major cause of morbidity in children.”
Through Statutory Instrument 6 of 2007, the City of Harare ought to have constructed standard sanitary landfills for waste disposal by 31 December 2012. However, it has failed to do so.
Ema has since issued an Environmental Protection Order to the City of Harare to urgently allocate enough financial, technical and human resources to address the problems at Pomona dumpsite.
In a recent press statement, Ema said the city council was not doing enough to alleviate the problems caused by the dumpsite.
“This (issuance of the Environmental Protection Order) follows observation of lack of due commitment by the local authority to give the matter the urgency it deserves despite the environmental effects of the ongoing fire, chief among them being pollution from the smoke emanating from the fire,” said Ema.
“Following failure to comply with this, the local authority was brought for a hearing before the Environmental Management Board on various environmental issues including poor waste management in general and Pomona Dumpsite in particular.
“A court case is pending against the local authority on various environmental issues again including poor waste management…
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