Illegal medical waste dump sites cleared

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pretoria - The four illegal medical waste dumping sites in and around Welkom have been cleared and rehabilitated, according to the National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report (NECER) 2010/11 released on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the cost of clearing the site and safely disposing of the medical waste at authorised high hazard landfill sites has been put at between R50 million and R60 million.

The Green Scorpions - officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs' Environmental Management Inspectorate - uncovered healthcare risk waste or medical waste during a raid at a brick manufacturing facility, Maximus Bricks in November 2009.

Further raids were carried out at Jonkersrus farm, Welkom showgrounds and the Harmony Gold property sites.

According to the report, the waste consisted mainly of chemical waste, sharps which included syringes, blood vials, needles and other general medical waste, such as swabs, intravenous bags, pharmaceutical matter and even anatomical waste.

"The cleanup and rehabilitation operation began at four sites in Welkom in March 2010 in response to the compliance issued.

"The process involved in the removal of the waste was closely monitored by an independent specialist as well as authorities and the waste was due to the fact that it was necessary to dispose of the medical waste mixed with large quantities of soil," read the report.

It said the cleanup and rehabilitation operations were completed at the end of October 2010.

Waste management company, Wasteman, was among 17 fingered in the inspectorate's investigation.

According to the report, the criminal case against 17 accused is continuing, although new evidence had come to light requiring further investigation, which had delayed the case.

"The case will be arraigned at the Bloemfontein High Court when the final stages of the investigation have been completed. It is hoped that a trial date can be set during the next reporting period," read the report.

During the Inspectorate's investigations into the sites in Welkom, other illegal medical waste dumping sites were discovered on two other farms - Altona and Rietvallei - in the North West, as well as at the old Klerksdorp landfill site.

"Final administrative notices were served on Wasteman as well as parties involved and the department has approved the methodology for the cleanup which was compiled by an independent specialist," read the report.

According to the report, the cleanup and rehabilitation of these sites was expected to commence in July 2011 and the cleanup of the Krugerdorp site would follow after this was completed.

The objective of the NECER report is to provide a national overview of environmental compliance and enforcement activities undertaken by the relevant institutions across the country during the period 01 April 2010 to 31 March 2011.

The report reflects the work of all environmental compliance and enforcement officials operating at a national and provincial level, with certain sections focusing particularly on the Environmental Management Inspectorate.