Unused personal protection equipment found in Hennops River
Pretoria - An investigation is under way after thousands of unused personal protection equipment was found in the Hennops River in the city at the weekend.
Several boxes of gloves and masks were discovered in the river by Irene Country Club staff and the Hennops River Revival team.
Last week, health workers threatened to go on a national strike next month, when the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to peak in parts of the country, citing lack of protective gear.
At the time, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, which represents most health workers, said the situation was so dire that front-line workers were wearing refuse bags to protect themselves.
Acting MEC for Health Jacob Mamabolo, who visited the club after a video of the unused equipment went viral on social media, said: “It is unfortunate that someone or people would discard personal protective equipment during a global pandemic and additionally pollute the environment.”
He said they would leave no stone unturned to find the culprits.
Tarryn Johnston of Hennops River Revival said the brazen pollution and disregard for the river was painful and maddening, as was the fact that the PPE could have assisted many health-care workers.
“We are in a pandemic, the equipment we have been removing for the past day could have assisted in areas where there have been major shortages of personal protective equipment.”
She said there had been major strides in cleaning up over the past weeks, and the river was in a better condition. But the dumping of the equipment resulted in a setback.
“As much as this is disheartening, we cannot let it go and pollute the river.”
The team constructed a boom net to trap remaining debris and other rubbish dumped upstream. These nets would be placed in various locations, with a big one at Poly island where all the rubbish flowed.
Johnston said the community had also been helpful by donating resources and their time to cleaning up the river, but more was needed to cover bigger areas before the rainy season after September.
Irene Country Club manager Janyne Marais said the protective equipment was dumped upstream, flowed down and spotted on Sunday.
“We identified it quickly as we have been cleaning the river for the past four weeks. It is unfortunate that efforts are being reversed to have a clean river as a result of people who don’t care and are clearly involved in some corruption of some sort.
“This is an attempt to get rid of evidence, but dumping it in the river does not solve it.
"It just perpetuates the other issues we have in the river already, and kills everything living in the water. To find this in the river is shocking and very distressing.”
She said the quality of water had deteriorated. The big issue was also the mitigation of wastewater works.
“We are getting no joy from the government at any sphere. No one is doing anything besides the NGOs such as Hennops River Revival; we have raised funding to clean the river and this is a setback.
“The sewage is big, the equipment is a problem, but the sewage has been flowing here for years, you cannot stand near it without smelling it or seeing raw sewage.
"There seems to be a lot of meetings but not much action.
“Our hands are tied... there is nothing we can do. We cannot put chemicals in it. We have to do what we can on our side, it’s out of our control from the sewage side.
“The source of the sewage and pollution needs to be found, and there needs to be applied solutions.
"If there are offenders they should receive fines and account for this destruction.”
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