Pollution law will add to landowners’ costs

RESIDENTIAL and industrial property owners and polluters will soon be forced to clean up contaminated land when new sections of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act come into force.

This is likely to result in additional costs for property owners and affect property values.

Owners of contaminated land will have to make remediation plans and disclose the contamination to potential buyers.

Although Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica yesterday promised a tough stance on pollution, there are less than 200 environmental management inspectors to ensure compliance with waste legislation.

She said the contaminated land section of the act would be promulgated soon and polluters would be forced to pay for damage caused.

Contaminated land puts surrounding communities and groundwater supplies at risk.

“I will soon be able to identify contaminated land and order investigations to determine the extent of contamination as well as the form of remediation required,” Ms Sonjica told a waste management conference in Boksburg. She said a database of all contaminated land would be linked to the Deeds Register to ensure transparency.

Pierre Venter of the Banking Association said the industry supported the act but had concerns, as it would apply to existing as well as future contamination.

Land contamination is not always obvious, as groundwater supplies for a residential property could be contaminated by a nearby factory or mine.

Much of the contaminated land is owned by the state and there is no budget to pay for its cleaning up, Mr Venter said. He said there should be incentives for the buying and cleaning up of such land.

But it is not clear that the government has the capacity to enforce waste legislation.

Melissa Fourie, director of the Centre for Environmental Rights in Cape Town, said there are fewer than 200 officials who are able to monitor compliance and enforcement of waste regulations, and only 20 to deal with water pollution in the entire country.

“In only a handful of instances have we seen the polluter forced to pay for the environmental damage caused,” she said.

Article by: www.eprop.co.za