Free State Provincial Government vows to take harsh action against illegal waste
4 Dec 2009
The Free State Provincial Government has reacted with shock to the reports on medical waste buried in Welkom. Tons of raw medical waste was illegally dumped in and around Welkom. The buried waste included sharps, viles, syringes, drips, dirty bandages and general medical waste.
“We are horrified by this finding, the lives of our people have been threatened and their health put at risk by this irresponsible action from negligent people who are supposed to take care of our environment. These medical wastes may have caused a health risk to people who might have come into contact with it and may even harm the environment which we are working tirelessly to protect,” said Premier E S Magashule.
The illegal dumping of medical waste is a contravention of section 24 of the Constitution which indicates that everyone has the right to an environment which is not harmful to their health or well being. Some people continue to disregard the laws governing the dumping of medical waste despite the existence of pieces of legislation meant to control that.
The Environmental Health Investigation team was sent to Welkom to:
* identify and confirm illegal dumping of medical waste at Maximus Bricks
* estimate or quantify the magnitude of the problem
* identify challenges and possible strategies that can be implemented to track waste from generation to final disposal.
Indeed the team found buried Health Care Risk Waste (HCRW) as it was reported and unearthed by the Green Scorpions. The medical waste included pharmaceutical sharps, sharp containers and disposable red liners with infectious waste. The site where the medical waste was buried is 3 320 square meters and two meters deep. The team quantified the magnitude of the problem to be in the region of 200 tons of dumped HCRM.
“It is totally unacceptable, illegal and immoral for these people to contaminate our environment, working together with our municipalities we must make them pay for their irresponsible behaviour. Harsh measures must be taken against the perpetrators of these illegal activities. Protecting the environment and waste management are issues which are key in sustainable development and it is government priority to ensure that we curb pollution in any way,” said Magashule.
The provincial government is looking at the possibility of legal action against the said business person and also reporting the matter to the Hawks. Moving forward the auditing of government or hospital incinerators will be re-visited to ensure that we have incinerators that have the capacity to treat HCRW on site. The auditing will assist in reducing the costs of treatment, reducing the potential accidents that could occur during transportation and most importantly in reducing the transboundary movement of HCRW.
Our provincial Department of Health in consultation with the Department of Environmental Affairs will consider the establishment of Waste Information Management System to allow provinces to trace the amount of waste generated per institution and amount of waste treated and disposed off by the service providers. Government will also look at the possibility of establishing a centralised (public or private owned) regional waste treatment plants.
“As Free State Provincial Government we applaud the Green Scorpions and the police officers for the swift and appropriate action they took to deal with the perpetrators of this criminal offence. The investigation is still ongoing but we will ensure that individuals and organisations with total disregard for the health of our people and the environment are brought to book. Already the owner has been arrested and charged and we are sending a message to others that government will mete out harsh punishment to criminal activities like these. We cannot and will not tolerate this kind of behaviour from this industry,” Magashule said.
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Issued by: Office of the Premier, Free State Provincial Government
4 December 2009
Issued by: Free State Provincial Government
4 Dec 2009
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