Environmental concerns over the dark clouds of smoke that have engulfed Francistown’s air recently have been blown away as an accident by a City Council spokesperson.
According to Public Relations Officer Priscilla Gulubane, the towering columns of smoke seen recently over the city were a result of old tyres accidentally catching fire at the city’s Dumela landfill site. Responding to a questionnaire over the pollution hazard posed by such a method of disposal, she insisted that operations at the site were governed by landfill guidelines, and burning tyres was not a disposal method, but an accident.
Gulubane blamed the flammability of the landfill as the probable cause of the fires, explaining: “The by-product of the decomposition of waste at the landfill is the production of methane gas which is highly volatile, and the disposal of hot ashes does result in fires like the one that burnt the used tyres.”
The PRO maintained that the normal ‘environmentally friendly’ method of disposal was to shred the tyres into small pieces using a tyre cutter, which is then co-disposed with general waste. She also asserted that workers at the site were trained on the hazards, and were provided with protective clothing, whilst undergoing periodic medical examinations.
However a source at the landfill site has rubbished the claims that tyres were shredded. He revealed, “The tyre cutting machine has not worked since 2005.”
When asked to comment, the PRO seemed more concerned about where the information was obtained, rather than its implications. At the time of going to press she was still trying to source an answer.
THREE REASONS NOT TO BURN TYRES
According to the ‘People for less Pollution’ website, the pollution caused from burning tyres represents a significant health risk.
In the argument against the method of disposal they listed the following concerns.
1. Burning tires releases a toxic soup of pollutants. Children are especially at risk. Hundreds of different toxic pollutants are created by burning tires as well as a tremendous number of small particles that settle deep in the lungs.
2. Breast milk contaminated by the organic pollutants on the particles released from burning tires will be transferred from a nursing mother to her baby.
3. Small particulates released by burning tires worsen asthma and may contribute to heart disease.