Clean up of illegally dumped medical waste begins in Welkom

2 March 2010


The clean-up of the sites involved in the illegally dumped healthcare risk waste (medical waste) uncovered in Welkom will begin today, 2 March 2010.

Illegally dumped medical waste will be removed from the Maximus Bricks site, a game farm in the magisterial district of Virginia and the Welkom show grounds. The department has ensured that all the sites have been fenced off and security has been appointed on a 24 hour basis to restrict access to the areas.

The medial waste will be taken to a high hazardous (H:H) landfill site in the Gauteng province for disposal, due to the hazardous classification and safety risks associated with medical waste. The Holfontein disposal site, which is managed by Envirosery meets the H:H standard, including the presence of a leachate collection and management system, as well as the sub surface liner design.

The additional features set hazardous disposal sites apart from general disposal sites and will ensure that the surrounding area is not further contaminated by the medical waste. The Holfontein disposal site is further monitored by security personnel on a 24 hour basis, access to the site is strictly controlled, it has the ability to trench and identify the disposal area to allow for long term monitoring and the trenched areas will be restricted.

The medical waste at the sites in Welkom only forms approximately 10 percent of the materials that will be removed as there is a significant volume of soil that is mixed with the waste which also needs to be disposed at Holfontein. The decision to landfill the contaminated materials was largely based on the fact that alternative treatment options are unable to effectively treat medical waste mixed with such large quantities of soil.

The department stressed that it is generally opposed to land filling of medical waste, however, under these circumstances it is considered to be the most risk-averse and practical solution to dispose of this waste, considering the risk associated with leaving the medical in its current location.

An independent waste management company, Waste Giant, has been contracted by the Wasteman Group to remove the medical waste in line with the compliance notices issued by the department.

After intense negotiations with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Wasteman Group has taken the responsibility for the cost involved in the cleanup of the sites without accepting any liability for the unauthorised disposal of medical waste.

The department has set strict conditions for the removal, transport and disposal of the medical waste and all clean up operations will take place under the strict supervision of officials from the department. In terms of the compliance notices, provision has been made or a time frame of a maximum of 30 days to dispose of the medical waste from these properties.

The criminal investigation into the illegal dumping of medical waste in Welkom is going.

Members of the public are requested not to handle any unlawful disposed of medical waste but to instead report them to 0800 205 005.

For media enquiries:
Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871

Roopa Singh
Cell: 082 225 3076