JOHANNESBURG - Three thousand tons of highly contaminated toxic mercury waste remains uncleared in Cato Ridge, KwaZulu-Natal.
The deadly chemical was imported and dumped by British based giant Thor Chemicals after it shut down operations in that country in the 1980s.
The 2013 projected deadline to remove the waste has since passed and now the environmental affairs department says it’ll serve a notice to Thor to come back and clean up the mess.
For 19 years - Malibongwe Mngwengwe burnt a deadly mercury chemical for a British chemical giant, Thor in Cato Ridge and like many of his colleagues – it came at a great cost to his health.
“I now suffer from memory loss. Doctors warned us about this and said the mercury affects memory,” Malibongwe said.
Some former employees are dead while others remain sick.
Mercury is described as a powerful neurotoxin that can lead to blurred vision, memory loss, tremors, brain damage, coma, death, numbness and headaches.
Despite this – no clean up’s been undertaken.
“There is no plant inside South Africa that can dispose of this waste and that this waste has to be treated outside of the country," said Environmental Affairs Minister, Barbara Creecy.
"Samples have been sent to Switzerland for processing to try and find an international company that would have the relevant technology to be able to process this waste so that it can be disposed of safely.”
Thor chemicals dis-invested in the country years back.
“One of the avenues that I would have would be to approach the Government of the United Kingdom," said Creecy.
"I believe that Thor Chemicals is now in the United Kingdom and I would have to speak to them about the fact that this company left behind toxic waste in our country, which has not been disposed of in terms of environmental law."
Medical and academic studies conducted before proved the presence of mercury in the area and water contamination in nearby rivers.