Warning against non-compliance with environmental laws

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pretoria - The Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI) have issued a stern warning to people who fail to comply with the country's environmental laws.

This warning comes after the EMI conducted inspections on the premises of the Wasteman Group in Gauteng, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.

The investigation uncovered that a large amount of waste was being taken from the company's KZN and North West facilities to the Maximus Bricks site, where it is illegally buried.

"This poses a significant health risk to the businesses and communities surrounding these areas, including the risk that significant harm may be caused to the environment like pollution of soil and underground water resources," Environmental Affairs spokesperson Albi Modise said.

Modise said the searches also confirmed that the company has been arranging truckloads of medical waste to be buried at three different sites in and around Welkom, instead of being treated and disposed of as required by law.

"The raid at the Maximum Bricks site in Welkom revealed that a significant amount of medical waste has been buried at the site including viles, syringes, drips, dirty bandages and general medical waste.

"This is in contravention of a number of provisions of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, which came into effect on 3 July 2009," Modise said.

The maximum penalties for committing these offences is a fine of R10 million or 10 years imprisonment or both.

The Wasteman Group services a large volume of hospitals in the country, including private hospital groups and provincial hospitals situated in KZN, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, North West and Western Cape.

The Maximus Brick factory owner has been issued with a compliance notice instructing the closure of the site, clean up of the waste by an approved waste management company and the requirement to make the site secure.

Modise warned that criminal investigation in relation to the company will continue and the Green Scorpions will be monitoring the compliance notice issued to the factory to ensure that the instructions are carried out as a matter of urgency.

"The department will not tolerate the blatant disregard for the stringent laws that are in place to ensure that waste is managed correctly, especially when this disregard places communities and the environment at risk," said Modise.

The National Compliance and Enforcement Report 2008/09 released last week by Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica revealed that a total of 2 412 environmental criminal dockets were registered during the period, compared with 1 762 in 2007/08.