Medical waste incinerator violates human rights - SAHRC

2015-06-03 21:18
SAHRC (Picture: Sapa)

SAHRC (Picture: Sapa)

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Bloemfontein - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found that EnviroServ’s regional medical waste incineration facility in Bloemfontein compromises community members’ right to a clean environment.

The SAHRC investigated after residents complained that the company’s incinerator has been billowing out large volumes of smoke during the day and night for the past two years. As a result, the air in the area is polluted, affecting the health of residents in the area.

Complainant Mr Johan De Beer and other community members were hospitalised due to the emissions from the incinerator.

De Beer complained to the Commission that since he moved into the area south of Bloemfontein two and half years ago, he had been suffering from various medical conditions which includes sinusitis, swollen glands in his neck and under his tongue, stuffy nose, burning sensation in his throat, blood coming out of his nose, burning eyes, bad bitter taste in his mouth from solids present in the air which he inhales, dizziness and headaches.

He needed medical attention on several occasions.

The SAHRC recommended that the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, as the licensing authority, review or verify the Atmospheric Emission Licence issued to Enviroserv health care waste incinerator within 6 months. 

Before the facility is allowed to recommence operations, it is required to provide proof that it is able to meet the requirements of the licence.

EnviroServ’s Group Operations Director, Esme Gombault, said the company had received a report from the SAHRC relating to its Bloemfontein incinerator which it was appealing.

“In the report, the SAHRC concedes that it has no evidence that EnviroServ operations impacted on the health of the complainant.

"The SAHRC refers to a report by independent experts that it was “very unlikely” that any person would develop adverse acute health effects as a consequence of emissions from the plant, and to a second emission study by Golder Associates which concluded that the potential health impacts associated with the emission from the incinerator are “of low significance - irrespective of distance from the site boundary".

“Despite disputing the findings, EnviroServ accepts the SAHRC’s recommendations that the incinerator should not be restarted until it meets the requirements of a revised Atmospheric Emission Licence to be issued by the local authority.

"EnviroServ voluntarily suspended the operations in 2013 for commercial reasons notwithstanding the facility was operating under a valid licence.”

Several attempts to reach the Mangaung Municipality for comment were unsuccessful.

Read more on:    sahrc  |  bloemfontein  |  environment

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