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19 May 2016

City vows action on beach pills

Sihle Mlambo, additional reporting by Zainul Dawood (Daily News)

Some of the medical waste found on Virginia Beach, Durban North. Photo Credit: Sibusiso Ndlovu

Medical waste dumping probe

The eThekwini Municipality has vowed to take tough action against the individuals or companies found to be responsible for the medical waste washed up on four Durban beaches this week.

The waste – which included bottles of pills and supplements, sealed male and female condoms – led to the closure of the Beachwood, Virginia, Glenashley and Blue Lagoon beaches yesterday for clean-up operations.

Thembinkosi Ngcobo, eThekwini Parks head, said an investigation was under way to determine where the medication had come from and he speculated that about half a ton of pills had been dumped in the ocean.

During a media briefing held at Blue Lagoon yesterday, a large quantity of tubes and packets of pills, government-issued condoms, shoes, bottles and other debris could be seen on the shore.

“This does not come from a small person,” said Ngcobo.

“There is an organisation that was expected to deliver this medical waste, but took a short-cut. This medical waste is ours (South African). It does not come from another country.”

Officials would not disclose the types of medication found.

The labels on many containers were no longer legible, but some appeared to be supplements.

The beaches were expected to be closed for the next two weeks.

The waste would be separated and recycled. The full cost of the clean-up operation is not yet known.

City spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa, said they would have expected companies or individuals handling such waste to observe the proper protocols.

eThekwini Council Speaker, Logie Naidoo, said the culprits would be found and the “strongest action” taken.

“This is a threat to citizens who utilise the beaches. The exposure to medical waste can be serious. When we heard about the needles washing up, we wanted to know the individuals and companies involved,” he said.

Naidoo was referring to the discovery of dozens of possibly used hypodermic needles on the Durban beachfront by surfer, John McCarthy, last month. There were also reports of needles being found on city beaches in March.

Naidoo said the city had met business leaders and received complaints that the beaches were very dirty – particularly on a Sunday morning after revellers had partied through the night. He said it was necessary to educate people about the importance of keeping the beaches clean.

DA Health spokesman, Wilmot James, said the governance of medical waste removal in the country was in a “dreadful state”.

“It is now critical that the Office of Health Standards Compliance conducts a performance audit to remove the threats to public health,” he said.

A summit would be convened next week against littering.

In April 2014, uMhlanga residents were shocked to find medical waste on their beach.

The waste included used drip bags, a soiled nappy, sanitary wipes and syringe caps.

In August 2007, residents of an informal settlement in Isipingo were outraged after finding used hypodermic needles, syringes, bandages and other hospital paraphernalia covered in blood.

 

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