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HAZARDOUS SPILL

‘Toxic’ medical waste dumped along Wild Coast had labels ‘deliberately removed’

‘Toxic’ medical waste dumped along Wild Coast had labels ‘deliberately removed’
From left to right: A canister marked “Emtricabine” a generic medication used to treat HIV‑1. (Photo: Cromwell Sonjica) / Some of the drug canisters recovered from just three of the unsorted rubbish bags. (Photo: Cromwell Sonjica) / A resident displays a handful of the prescription pills that have washed up on the Wild Coast. (Photo: Supplied)

Health investigators have found that medical waste that was dumped along the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast had labels and other identifiers like batch numbers ‘deliberately removed’. Medical waste has now been collected from five places on a 25km stretch between Sigidi and Mtentu villages, according to the AMadiba Crisis Committee.

Five buckets of unknown medication dumped along the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast have been earmarked for destruction, as soon as other investigators have completed their probes.

Eastern Cape Department of Health Investigators were unable to identify the medication in five of these buckets that have now been sequestered at the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Hospital awaiting destruction.

“Due to fears of toxicity and the smell,” a pharmacist from the Department that led the meeting wrote in his report, “the buckets will be stored at the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Hospital for inspections of interested parties.”

Marie Tiervry, Dolly Mitchell and Berenice Komoete with some of the bags of rubbish they collected on Monday 11 November 2019. (Photo: Mike Holmes)

The buckets will be weighed and a plan will be made to dispose of them next week if nobody comes forward to claim them. Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the Alfred Nzo municipality has contracted Compass Waste Management to start the process of disposing of the buckets and the waste. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Villagers alarmed by prescription drugs and other medical waste ‘dumping’ on Wild Coast beaches

The report was produced after a meeting between the Eastern Cape Department of Health and the leaders of the Amadiba Community who first sounded the alarm over the extensive spill of medicine along a stretch of the Wild Coast.

Kupelo confirmed that the meeting took place on 12 February. 

“There is no evidence that links the Eastern Cape Department of Health with the medication,” Kupelo said. “There is no evidence to confirm if the medicines were expired or not due to labels, batch numbers and expiry dates having been intentionally removed.

The report continues: “We identified the medication, but these are medications only available in the private sector. 

Members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee meeting with the Eastern Cape Department of Health, investigate medical waste dumped along the Wild Coast. (Photo: Supplied)

Discarded pharma used in private and public sector

Community leaders confirmed the meeting but said they understood that some of the discarded pharmaceuticals found are in use in both the private and the public sectors.

“The topic under discussion was the thousands of medical containers that started to arrive with garbage floods, at the end of January. The Mbizana part of the Wild Coast is affected, all the way down to Mkhambathi Nature Reserve,” a statement from the Amadiba Community reads.

“In the delegation from Alfred Nzo region were also experts and leading medical staff from St Patricks and Greenville hospitals in Mbizana. The officials commended the community and the ACC for organising a clean-up since 29 January. They had never seen such an initiative. But they also warned that the work is risky. Some of the medicines are dangerous. As ACC, we took the warning seriously.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Beachgoers warned after medical waste washes up on Wild Coast shores

Community leaders said they were given protective gear but after the meeting in mid-February, they continued collecting more garbage north of the Mnyameni River. 

“We are worried that the medicines would be eaten by curious children or by livestock wandering freely on the beaches. It shouldn’t be a community organising the clean-up alone. But some things can’t wait. Medical waste is still washing up from the ocean to the beaches,” the community statement continues.

Some of the drug canisters recovered from just three of the unsorted rubbish bags. (Photo: Cromwell Sonjica)

The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) said that medical waste has now been collected from five places on a 25km stretch between Sigidi and Mtentu villages.  

“As the ACC, we urge the Provincial Government to order the insourcing of hazardous waste collection,” he said. The provincial Department of Health of facilities have all outsourced medical waste disposal to for-profit companies.

“We are fighting for the future. Justice must now be done, to the ocean and to us people who depend on it,” the statement continues. DM

 

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    What consequences should there be for whoever is responsible for this (if such could ever be determined)? They need to be severe if such callous behaviour is ever to cease.

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