Once again, the Riverton City dump is on fire. It started yesterday and most of the city of Kingston is affected. Our health is at great risk. I am staying home with windows and doors closed. Several schools have closed early today. We have memories of previous fires – in particular, a major one last April in which hundreds of tires caught fire and the city was shrouded in poisonous smoke for over a week. But as we know, fires (both large and small) at the dump are a regular occurrence. In between the fires, it seems little is done to prevent another one happening. So here we are again.
Here is JET’s press release issued today on the matter.
March 12, 2015
The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is alarmed about the current fire at the Riverton waste disposal site in Kingston. Smoke from the fire can clearly be seen across sections of Kingston and St. Andrew, even as far as New Kingston. JET has long raised concern about this ongoing problem and has repeatedly called for the relevant government agencies to take action to address the causes of these fires.
The site is managed by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) under two permits issued by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) in April 2014. Several conditions of the permits require NSWMA to take steps to prevent the outbreak of fires including developing an Emergency Response Plan and Facility Fire Monitoring Prevention Programme for the site which would include daily monitoring of site for early detection and response to fires, storing waste such as used tyres in a manner to prevent the spread of fires and to ensure access for emergency response, procuring fire- fighting equipment and conducting air quality monitoring. JET queries whether this latest fire outbreak is as a result of a breach in the conditions of the permit and if so, what enforcement action will be taken by NEPA. “Despite the issue of these permits, we do not know what progress has been made in improving the operation of our dumps”, says Diana McCaulay, CEO of JET.
JET remains extremely concerned about the likely health impacts to people who are exposed to the smoke from the fire. The smoke from this fire may contain dangerous air pollutants that can lead to or aggravate pre-existing respiratory illnesses among other illnesses. JET is calling for a speedy response to out the fire, public disclosure of the causes for the fire and public disclosure of the air quality for areas in Kingston affected by the fire.
Danielle Andrade, Legal Director, JET 392-7341
Lisa Russell, Legal Officer, JET 886-3262