PICS: Probe over medical waste dumped in Chatsworth
Durban - INVESTIGATIONS were underway to trace the source of medical waste dumped in bushes in Chatsworth on Monday.
According to Shaun Hammond, chairperson of the Silverglen Conservancy and a member of the eThekwini Conservancies Forum, this was the third batch of medical waste discovered in various parts of Chatsworth this year.
The first batch was found near the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) garden refuse collection site on Sunset Avenue three weeks ago. Ward Councillor Tony Govender issued a warning to residents to stay clear of the site at the time. Govender notified various municipal departments for assistance. The source had not been traced.
The second batch of waste was found in Havenside a week ago. The bags of medical waste were removed by DSW promptly, Hammond said.
“Valuable evidence had been destroyed and the perpetrators could not be traced,” Hammond said.
On Monday, approximately 20 black bags of medical waste were found in bushes near Welbedacht.
The bags contained glass vials, plastic medical containers, used intravenous therapy (IV) bags, etc. No blood had been found. Hammond said illegal dumping of general waste warrants a R5 000 fine.
Other toxic substances not excluding medical waste can attract fines going into hundreds of thousands of rands. Hammond said all specialised waste can only be removed by registered waste carriers.
“The necessary enforcement agencies were notified to investigate further as to the perpetrators behind this heinous crime. The generator of the waste is totally responsible for their waste! Make sure the person contracted to remove your waste is a reputable person who will dispose of the waste in a proper landfill site, if not you will be fined! The ’cradle to the grave’ environmental law holds the generator of the waste totally liable for all risks, damages, rehabilitation and clearing costs not excluding the multiple fines related to the same,” Hammond said.
The eThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said if there was sufficient evidence obtained or a sworn affidavit from a witness who was willing to appear in court, then legal proceedings may be instituted against the perpetrator of the incident.
“These events do occur periodically throughout the city but such incidents are not routine. Medical waste cannot be disposed of through the municipal waste collection system. Medical waste must be disposed of through approved Health Care Risk Waste Service providers,” he said.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) spokesperson Bheki Mbanjwa said it was a criminal offence to dispose of waste in an unauthorised manner. Any person found doing so may face administrative enforcement or may have criminal charges instituted against them in terms of the National Environment Management Act.
If found guilty, the convicted party may face a fine or up to R10 million or up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
“It is very important that the evidence of such crimes is kept intact so as to allow the investigators to obtain valuable information to pursue the case. When the evidence is removed it becomes very difficult to prosecute anyone,” he said.
“We encourage members of the public who come across any medical waste which has been disposed of in an unauthorised manner, to immediately report such to the local Environmental Health Units or to the EDTEA so that officials can pursue an investigation and be able to trace the source. The officials will then visit the site to collect evidence,” said Mbanjwa.
Once the required information is obtained then this waste must be removed by appropriately qualified and authorised personnel and be disposed of properly at a licensed facility.