‘Thermopower is making us sick’

2011-01-24 12:50

Members of the Clayville community adjacent to Thermopower, the medical waste treatment plant charged with toxic spills into the environment, staged a lively demonstration against the company at the Kempton Park Regional Court today.

Ten of them will be allowed into the court tomorrow where Thermopower Technologies directors Christos Eleftheriades, Derek Oldnall and David Smith will stand trial for the alleged violation of environmental laws.

They were charged after inspectors of the environmental affairs and tourism department allegedly caught Thermopower burying waste on its premises and spilling it into stormwater drains.

Thermopower is situated in Olifantsfontein, halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Eleftheriades is ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s partner in a consortium that won the contract to manage medical waste in Limpopo.

Malema, Gauteng environment MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza and Eleftheriades were the focus of the anger the protesters expressed on posters and in songs.

“Down the drain, Christos Eleftheriades, down!”, they sang. And “Voetsek, Eleftheriades, voetsek!”

Georgina Manka (42), one of the protestors, told City Press she was protesting because “Thermopower is making us sick”.

Kenneth Mogwatseleng (38), a former employee of the company, claimed he did not have the use of his penis after being injured in a chemical spill.

“I don’t have a future,” he said. “I have a wife and only one child, and I can’t make another.”

Gabriel Mashamamaite (35), another former employee, claimed his genitals were also “burnt” after handling chemicals which exploded. He received medical attention but still suffered from a “rash”.

Members of communities in residential areas adjacent to the medical waste treatment plant, have been complaining for years about the smelly, toxic emissions allegedly spewed into the atmosphere by Thermopower.

They also complained that the pollution makes them sick.

The Thermopower directors will face nine charges tomorrow.

These include allegedly storing untreated waste on the premises for more than a month, burying residue in one of the buildings on site, disposing of residue in stormwater drains and storing waste in leaking containers not properly sealed and labelled.

They are also charged with treating healthcare-risk waste and general waste together, storing treated waste on the site for more than three months before disposing of it and not submitting discharge papers to the authorities.

They are also charged with not ensuring that all the residue generated in the treatment process was disposed of at a permitted hazardous waste landfill site on a regular basis, or, alternatively, reclassified for delisting and disposal at a permissible disposal site.

Thermopower is situated on top of a massive dolomitic aquifer from which three million litres of Pretoria’s water is drawn a day.

The company’s activities, according to a report published by environmental experts Golder Associates, threaten this pristine source of drinking water for more than two million people.

Thermopower has denied the claims against it.

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