Published: Monday 31 July 2000

Toxic waste from the Thor Chemicals' mercury processing plant is contaminating the groundwater in KwaZulu-Natal, according to the environment justice networking forum (EJNF) of South Africa.

The plant treats and stores toxic waste imported from developed countries in Europe and elsewhere.

The state department of environmental affairs and tourism took a United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) delegation and local environmentalists to the plant to suggest methods for cleaning up the groundwater.

Thabo Madihlaba, acting coordinator of EJNF, said, "The delegation was shocked. They observed that the processing plant had deteriorated terribly and that fumes inside the warehouses were deadly."

According to him, EJNF would launch a national campaign to pressurise the government to prosecute Thor Chemicals and send back the toxic waste to the countries of origin. "Foreign companies who shipped the toxic waste to the Thor plant must also be prosecuted," he said. It is essential for the government to adopt a 'return to sender' policy or the country would be saddled with this pollution for decades to come.

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