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Green Scorpions bear down on polluter

Toxic waste disposer Thermopower now faces investigations by the Green Scorpions, on top of a pending criminal prosecution.

Last week the Mail & Guardian reported on a battle between the company and a community in Olifantsfontein that alleges Thermopower is polluting the air and making its members ill.

The M&G learned this week that further investigations are likely to begin in October, when South Africa’s new Air Quality Act kicks in. The Act is much stricter than current legislation.

A well-placed source told the M&G that while Thermopower might be legally compliant now, come October it might find itself on the wrong side of the law.

The department of environment and water affairs has, meanwhile, called on community members to take any information they have about Thermopower to the Green Scorpions.

“Should the department receive information that the operations of the facility are resulting in pollution, various mechanisms are available in the legislation to compel the facility to stop polluting and to undertake clean-up and rehabilitation activities,” said Joanne Yawitch, deputy director general in the department.

She said that after a review of emissions data, a decision will be made about whether it is necessary to take a new look at Thermopower’s registration certificate and force it to install more effective pollution-control equipment.

Community members this week questioned why it has taken so long for the original prosecution, following a Green Scorpions investigation in 2006, to get going.

The National Prosecuting Authority declined to comment, only saying that the action against Thermopower was ongoing.

“We want to know what is going on with that case,” community leader Ishmael Seeta said.

He said the community was especially worried that the company might be awarded a medical waste licence despite the criminal case against it.

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Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald is a South African environmental reporter, particularly experienced in the investigative field. After 10 years at the Mail & Guardian, she signed on with City Press in 2011. Her investigative environmental features have been recognised with numerous national journalism awards. Her coverage revolves around climate change politics, land reform, polluting mines, and environmental health. The world’s journey to find a deal to address climate change has shaped her career to a great degree. Yolandi attended her first climate change conference in Montreal in 2005. In the last decade, she has been present at seven of the COP’s, including the all-important COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. South Africa’s own addiction to coal in the midst of these talks has featured prominently in her reports.

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