Three children aged 11, 12, and 14, have been admitted to the hospital with burn injuries after allegedly stepping on the chemical waste that cement manufacturer Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) had “carelessly” dumped.
On January 13, the boys were herding cattle at the business’s Colleen Bawn, Matabeleland South, facility when they stepped in hot dust created by the burning of clay and limestone.
The three kids are being treated in Bulawayo’s Mater Dei Hospital.
PPC claimed in a statement seen by ZimLive that “investigations into the event have been launched in accordance with the company’s policies.“
The company said that it had “aided with all medical support required” and said that the boys were “stable” in the hospital.
According to company sources, the area where the electrostatic precipitation (EP dust) was disposed of was not intended for that use because it was outside of PPC’s fenced-in area, endangering the nearby populations. An employee is quoted as saying:
The Environmental Management Agency once stopped the dumping of waste at the dumpsite. Dumping of EP dust there is clearly against environmental protocols.
Dumping of EP dust should be rare, and the increased dumping clearly indicates PPC is struggling with managing waste.
The PPC insider claims that there was another incident early last year in which two individuals experienced slight burns in the same location.
High temperatures are used to burn clay and limestone, and the dust that does not become clinker—the primary raw material used to make cement—is thrown away.
According to a PPC insider, the business had previously altered the dust reduction technology, which prevented EP particles from blowing into the environment via chimneys. The EP dust builds up under the new method and must be regularly removed to dumpsites.
In addition, he challenged the assertion made by PPC that the incident occurred on its “industrial dumping site in the western section” of Colleen Bawn. The worker said:
That’s not true. The incident happened in a clay stockpile area, which is not a designated dumpsite for EP dust. How can they dump hot material outside the fence? That place was identified for dumping clay to close a hole that had been dug there, after which dumping was supposed to stop. The dust pile shouldn’t be as high as it is now.
He claimed PPC was in violation of environmental procedures and had failed to “control recognised hazards” as a member of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 45001.
When questioned about the allegations of negligence, Mavellas Sibanda, head of operations and projects at PPC, denied that they had received a reprimand from EMA. He did, however, confirm that the company had stopped dropping EP dust in the vicinity of the event on Friday.