Medical waste clean-up operation begins

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pretoria - The clean-up operation of medical waste that was dumped in Welkom was scheduled to start today, said the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Over 10 tones of illegally dumped waste will be removed from the Maximus Bricks site, a game farm in the magisterial district of Virginia and the Welkom showgrounds.

Late last year, used bandages, needles, vials and discarded pills were found buried in trenches in the area.

The department said the waste will be taken to a High Hazardous (HH) landfill site in Gauteng for disposal, due to its hazardous classification and safety risks. The Holfontein disposal site is monitored on a 24-hour basis.

"The medical waste at the sites in Welkom only forms approximately 10 percent of the materials that will be removed as there is a significant volume of soil that is mixed with the waste which also needs to be disposed at Holfontein," said departmental spokesperson Albi Modise.

Modise said the department's decision to have the material land-filled is due to the fact that alternative treatment options will be unable to effectively treat medical waste that is largely mixed with soil.

"The Department stresses that it is generally opposed to land-filling of medical waste; however, under these circumstances it is considered to be the most risk-averse and practical solution to dispose of this waste, considering the risks associated with leaving the medical waste in its current location," said Modise.

Independent waste management company, Waste Giant, has been contracted by the Wasteman Group to remove the medical waste.

Operations of the removal and disposal of the waste in Welkom will take place under supervision from the department.

Additionally the criminal investigation into the illegal dumping of medical waste in Welkom is ongoing.

The public is also reminded not to handle any unlawfully disposed medical waste but rather to report it to 0800 205 005.