Farmer nabbed for medical waste

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pretoria - A Welkom farmer has been arrested in connection with the illegal dumping of healthcare waste at a disused Harmony Gold mine.

The South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Green Scorpions or Environmental Management Inspectorate arrested the man who is also the owner of a brick manufacturing company on Monday.

It is alleged that he is responsible for the illegally dumped medical waste that was found in a disused mine the Free State last year.

The Green Scorpions had found sharps, pharmaceuticals, vials, syringes, drips, used bandages and general medical waste buried at the site instead of being treated and disposed of as is required by law.

The inspectorate had earlier unearthed 300 tons of used bandages and needles, vials and discarded pills buried in trenches at a local factory.

Medical waste can pose a health and bio-hazard risk to the people that may come into contact with it. There is also a risk that significant harm may be caused to the environment such as pollution of the soil and underground water and surface water resources.

The man will face charges set out in the National Environmental Management, Waste Act including offences set out in section 67 and 68 of the Act.

These charges include illegal disposal of waste, failing to ensure that waste is treated and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner, managing waste in such a manner that endangers health or the environment or causes a nuisance and failure to obtain a waste management licence for a waste management activity.

The maximum penalty for committing these offences is R10 million or 10 years imprisonment or both.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said the arrest was prompted by allegations of threats and intimidation the suspect had made against state witnesses.

It has urged members of the public to report environmental crimes to the following 24-hour hotline: 0800 205 005.