People to make way for garbage
Concerns that proposed medical waste recycling plant could contaminate spring water used for irrigation and domestic purposes, pollute the air and spread an odour from the incinerator and landfills
FAMILIES living on a Bronkhorstspruit farm in Gauteng are to be evicted to make room for a proposed medical waste recycling plant.
The plant could have a negative effect on the more than 100 people, including 52 senior citizens and staff at the Phumula Old Age Home, just across the road, and a wetland.
It could also contaminate spring water used for irrigation and domestic purposes, pollute the air and spread an odour from the incinerator and landfills.
There is also fear that it might, in the long term, have an adverse effect on the health of people in the Ekangala and Rethabiseng townships about 5km west of the farm.
The plot owner, Pascal Mokwena of Kiddi Jol, declined to discuss the matter with Sowetan and referred the newspaper to his bid document of September 26.
According to the document the project is aimed at accommodating the incineration and landfilling of healthcare risk and general waste from hospitals around Tshwane, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo.
In the bid, the company said the proposed plant might reduce illegal dumping and the cost of transporting the waste for disposal in Johannesburg.
It added that an application for authorisation was submitted to the national Department of Environmental Affairs on July 30.
Mokwena further claimed to have remedies for all "challenges", including "illegal occupants" on the farm.
The proposal was met with strong opposition from property owners, including AgriSA and semi-retired Roman Catholic priest Father Karl Kuppelwieser known as Father Charles, who owns the portion neighbouring Mokwena's.
Father Charles is founder of Sizanani Village and Phumula for the sick, abandoned children and the aged in Bronkhorstspruit.
The cleric described the establishment of the plant as a health risk and death trap for locals, the vegetation, animals and birds nesting in the wetland.
"In Phumula there are about 100 people, including 52 residents. We draw our irrigation water from the spring not far from the earmarked place and there's a variety of protected animals on the wetland.
"It is our duty to protect the elderly. We cannot let them die of unnatural causes," the 78-year-old priest said.
On Sunday morning Mokwena convened a gathering of all black families on his property and told them to vacate his farm.
They have until December 25 to leave the property.
"I am going to introduce very dangerous chemicals here and they will kill you," he told them.
Maria Kabini, 73, said: "We have been living here for more than 40 years. Our children and grandchildren grew up here.
"We will notleave. Where does he expect us to go?"
After a full week, the Department of Environmental Affairs had not responded to Sowetan's questions.
It said officials were attending a Waste Management Officer's meeting and the launch of the National Waste Management Strategy in East London.