Confusion still reigns in our industry about our responsibilities regarding the disposal of hazardous waste. To help bring clarity on the matter, we asked our environmental consultant, Ross Holland of Holland and Associates, to answer an extensive list of questions for the Dolphin Bay
Ross emphasises that professional advice should be sought to ensure that your hazardous waste is both stored and removed properly. This would take the form of a site-specific Due Diligence Investigation by an environmental consultant, who would advise on the requirements applicable to your specific operations. Nevertheless, he has given us some generic guidance.
“Hazardous waste” is a broad term referring to any waste containing compounds, organic or inorganic, that may cause damage to human and animal health or the environment. “Hazardous waste that is not correctly stored and disposed of poses a significant risk for soil, ground-water and surface water contamination,” says Ross. “These chemicals are very useful to society, but you wouldn`t want them in your drinking water!”
The failure to dispose of contaminated waste correctly can result in penalties of up to R10m, or imprisonment of up to 10 years, the Waste Act states, although the authorities usually provide the manufacturer with time to implement a rectification plan.
The primary legislation governing the storage and disposal of waste is the National Environmental Management Waste Act, 59 of 2008, along with several Government Gazette notices that flesh out the legislation. These notices include: a list of waste-management activities (including wood treatment) that are likely to have a detrimental effect on the environment; the national norms and standards for the storage of waste; waste classification and management regulations, and national norms and standards for assessing waste for disposal at a landfill.
In certain areas, provincial legislation and local by-laws may also apply.
The amount of hazardous waste that may be stored is determined by the norms and standards, which state that a waste storage facility “must be operated within its design capacity, and the waste storage container must not be overfilled”.
The length of time that the waste may be stored is determined by the operations of the plant, and is based upon the rate of waste generation relative to the designed capacity of the storage facility. The norms and standards apply to a facility storing hazardous waste, if that facility has the capacity to store more than 80m3 continuously.
The removal of hazardous waste must always be done in compliance with the SANS codes, “which are numerous,” says Ross. The area in which your facility is located determines who may remove the waste. In some areas, such as the City of Cape Town, this removal must be done by a registered service provider.
The waste is taken to hazardous waste landfill sites. Most of these are located around Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. These sites can be classified as H:H or H:h, which determines the type of waste they can accept, although both may accept Schedule 3 waste, which includes waste from wood treatment plants.
Landfill sites constructed in the past two years, are classified as Class A, B, C or D. Only Class A sites can store classified waste. Older sites are simply classed as “general” or “hazardous”, according to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry minimum requirements.
In our last newsletter, both Ross and Bertus reported that rising numbers of companies are urgently seeking to dispose of their hazardous waste in the legal and proper manner, after inspectors from the Department of Environmental Affairs made unannounced visits to their premises.
They both stressed the need to become compliant, before being inspected, to avoid the need for emergency measures.
“Thus far we are only aware of directives or pre-directives being issued, but the possibility of greater sanction exists, and would be imposed depending on the severity of the transgression,” says Ross.