MEDIA RELEASE - 16 MARCH 2007
NATIONWIDE ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT DRIVE BY 'GREEN
SCORPIONS' HAILED AS A SUCCESS
Environmental protection received a boost yesterday, when Environmental
Management Inspectors, (popularly referred to as „Green Scorpions‟) embarked
on a nationwide drive to clamp down on environmental offenders.
The national enforcement drive has been described by Ms Joanne Yawitch,
Deputy Director - General for Environmental Quality & Protection at the National
Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, as a huge success and a victory
for environmental protection. “The countrywide action has definitely contributed
to the overall objective of highlighting the critical issue of environmental crimes
and raising awareness around the role of community participation in protecting
and sustaining the environment for future generations,” said Yawitch.
The first in a series of planned Enforcement Days saw inspectors across the
country execute scheduled enforcement activities ranging from site inspections in
determining compliance levels, to disseminating information to the public in an
effort to increase environmental enforcement awareness.
Launch of compliance campaign in the chemical industry
Environmental Management Inspectors EMIs) from the national Department of
Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the KZN Department of Agriculture and
Environmental Affairs, together with officials from the Department of Water
Affairs and Forestry and Environmental Health Officers from the uMhlatuze
Municipality, launched a compliance campaign in the chemical industry by
conducting the first joint environmental compliance inspection at Foskor‟s
chemical plant in Richards Bay.
The compliance inspection at Foskor followed the first joint compliance
inspection in the ferro-alloy industry at Assmang‟s Cato Ridge Plant on 26 February 2007.
KZN MEC, ME Mthimkulu opened the inspection at Foskor, where officials were
met with a cooperative attitude by Foskor management.
Findings of the inspection at Foskor will only be available after completion of the
inspection on Friday, 16 March 2007 and a comprehensive assessment of the
plant‟s status of compliance with all environmental legislation and permits.
Foskor‟s Richards Bay plant has been the scene of a number of emergency incidents over the past five years.
Abattoirs in the Northern Cape in gross non-compliance
On the same day, Environmental Management Inspectors from the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Tourism conducted surprise inspections at six abattoirs in Olifantshoek, Kathu and Kuruman.
None of the five abattoirs had the requisite environmental authorisations, and only one of the five abattoirs had acceptable waste disposal systems in place. One abattoir had already been served with a notice, but had failed to comply with the notice.
At five of the abattoirs, liquid abattoir waste was kept in septic tanks which were overflowing into the veld. Solid waste like off-cuts were found dumped in trenches, where the waste is either burnt using tyres, or left to rot. At some of the sites, full trenches were simply covered up and another trench dug for waste disposal.
At one of the abattoirs, the manager tried to chase the EMIs away.
The Northern Cape Department of Environment and Tourism is considering appropriate enforcement action against the abattoirs. The maximum penalty for the illegal disposal of waste is 10 years‟ imprisonment or a fine of R200 000, or both.
Boxes of medical waste left outside in the rain
Shocking scenes also awaited EMIs from the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment (GDACE) at the Aid Safe hazardous waste facility on the East Rand.
EMIs had gone to the site on Thursday morning to serve a compliance notice, after an investigation had revealed that Aid Safe had failed to comply with the conditions of their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Record of Decision issued by GDACE.
EMIs found boxes of medical waste disintegrating after standing outside in the rain overnight. The incinerator on site had not been operational for at least a week due to malfunction, which meant that stored waste had piled up. No manager was on site. These conditions are in gross non-compliance of the strict requirements set by GDACE for the facility.
The maximum penalty for non-compliance with the conditions of an EIA authorisation is 10 years‟ imprisonment, a R5 million fine, or both. Non-
compliance with a compliance notice is also a criminal offence in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998.
Illegal fishing, fish processing and slipways
EMIs from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism‟s Marine and Coastal Management teamed up with Table Mountain National Park EMIs to conduct vessel inspections at slipways on the peninsula for illegal catches, particularly illegal crayfish. During these operations one person was arrested for the illegal possession of abalone.
Raising awareness regarding the detrimental impact of illegal fishing with nets in the Sabie River, which forms the southwestern border of the Kruger National Park, was the focus of eight SANParks EMIs based in the Kruger National Park. Inspectors located community members selling fish from the river and provided them with information on the ecological impact of illegal net fishing inside the Kruger National Park.
Developer of illegal resort on a Nelspruit River charged
On Thursday afternoon, EMIs from the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs (MDALA) set out to confront the developer of an illegal resort on the Gladdespruit River in Nelspruit. The developer had dumped large amounts of building rubble on the river bank, and several trees had been chopped down. The developer had not applied for an Environmental Impact Assessment authorisation.
Conducting such activities without an EIA authorisation from MDALA is a criminal offence. EMIs therefore opened a criminal investigation with the local SAPS.
The maximum penalty for conducting listed activities without an EIA authorisation is 10 years imprisonment or a R5 million fine, or both.
Environmental Management Inspectorate
The Environmental Management Inspectorate is a network of environmental enforcement officials from different government departments (national, provincial and municipal). EMIs monitor compliance with and enforce the specific environmental legislation they have been mandated to enforce in their designations by the Minister or relevant MEC.
Currently approximately 890 EMIs have either been designated or are awaiting designation countrywide and will provide South Africa with the largest environmental police force in the history of South Africa‟s conservation and environmental protection efforts. (Additional information, click here http://www.deat.gov.za/NewsMedia/MedStat/2007Mar15_1/EMI%20Brochure.doc)
Members of the public and stakeholders are urged to report environmental
transgressions to the 24 hour Environmental Crimes and Incident Hotline on
0800 205 005.
For further information contact Roopa Singh on 082 225 3076
National Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism Melissa Fourie - 072 306 8888
Northern Cape Department of Environment & Tourism Tokgamo Gaoraelwe - 082 828 0234
Table Mountain National Park
Robin Adams - 082 923 1389
Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment
Tebogo Twala 082 334 2900
Kruger National park and Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency Frik Rossouw from SANParks 082 908 3056
Western Cape Department of Environment and Development Planning
Lynette Johns 083 310 0113
Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs Dr Garth Batchelor 082 771 7998
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS &
TOURISM ON 16 MARCH 2007