So, once again, the good citizens of Kingston are suffering from a fire near the Riverton City dump (not landfill). This is, of course, not the first time. There was the major tyre fire in 2014, and another fire in 2015. I wrote about the problem of air pollution in Jamaica just recently. Now, another tyre fire has been burning near the dump, where tyres are stored (what is the end game, here? Are we going to stockpile tyres, forever?)
Last night, during tremendous downpowers, thunder and lightning, there were many complaints about an acute smell of burning, resulting in sore throats, nausea, headaches and so on. Presumably the still-burning tyres were being doused by the rain, and smoking furiously. I don’t know. All I do know is that people like broadcaster Fae Ellington ended up going to get treatment for respiratory problems, including asthma (a growing health problem in the city).
As usual, there is much talk. I am hearing about plans to privatize the dump and to remove the responsibility of Riverton from the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), which is once again under fire (pardon the pun). Privatization plans should hopefully include the waste-to-energy project that has been discussed for some years now. Certainly, there are challenges: there is a failure of management all round; the dump and its surroundings provide income for the surrounding impoverished community (yes, I have visited there and yes, I have seen the appalling living conditions); and oh yes – politics is involved (are you surprised?) But, let’s start heading in the right direction now, please.
I would love to see the Jamaican Government taking action, NOW – please, please take action! And when you have done so, please let the Jamaican public know and understand what has been or is being done to rectify this situation. Once and for all. The Jamaican public – and in particular, those living in the communities surrounding and affected by the dump – need to know that something is being done about it.
Here is Jamaica Environment Trust’s press release:
May 7, 2018
MISMANAGEMENT OF WASTE TYRES BY GOVERNMENT AGENCIES IS THE ISSUE, SAYS JET
Following reports of a major tyre fire in the community surrounding the Riverton City Dump yesterday, Sunday, May 6, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) maintains its position that illegal tyre burning in the vicinity occurs due to:
- – poor management of Jamaica’s solid waste
- – lack of enforcement of relevant laws by the responsible government agencies; and
- – failure to take effective action to stop this threat to public health.
Illegal storage and burning of tyres endangers life and property and has been an urgent problem all over Jamaica, but especially in the communities near to Riverton for decades.
JET notes statements from the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) accusing JET of stating or implying that this latest fire was on the Riverton Waste Disposal Site (WDS) itself. Our statement is a matter of record and made no such claim. We did state that proximity to the dump is a factor in allowing these activities to persist, due to the extremely poor solid waste management that is evident in surrounding communities and we stand by this statement.
Regardless of the precise location of this particular fire, JET reminds the public that the National Solid Waste Management Authority Act (2002) Part II, Section 4, 1 (a) states: “The authority shall take all such steps as are necessary for the effective management of solid waste in Jamaica in order to safeguard public health, ensure that the waste is collected, stored, transported, recycled, reused or disposed of, in an environmentally sound manner and promote safety standards in relation to such waste.”
Further, waste tyres should be considered hazardous. Under the NSWMA Act hazardous waste is defined as: (a) waste which, because of its chemical or other property, may cause, promote or result, directly or indirectly, in (i) hazard or harm to human health or create a nuisance; (ii) hazard to the natural living condition of plants and animals; (iii) pollution of land, water, the atmosphere or the environment; (iv) fire or explosion; (v) excessive sound or noise; (vi) the appearance and multiplication of harmful animals or plants; (vii) the encouragement of pathogens; (viii) disturbance of public order and safety, and (b) such other waste as the Minister may, by order, declare to be hazardous. By this definition, the storage and processing of waste tyres, therefore, should also require a permit under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act. JET would like to know if such a permit had been granted and if it had, whether the proprietor of the premises was in compliance.
At 4 PM on May 6th, after the fire was reported extinguished in the media, JET’s CEO, Suzanne Stanley, took this photograph of the continuing impact to the health of hundreds, if not thousands of people. Moreover, JET has received many reports of toxic fumes during the night of May 6th, despite the heavy rain, along with associated respiratory conditions. Depending on the length and degree of exposure, health impacts could include irritation of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, respiratory effects, central nervous system depression, and over the long term, cancer. For those who had to be evacuated and those who were forced to breathe harmful air, the precise location of the fire is irrelevant.
The NSWMA and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) are the government agencies responsible for regulating solid waste and solid waste facilities at the national level. Action has long been promised on the threat posed by waste tyres held on Waste Disposal Sites and in many other places around the island, including the communities near to the Riverton WDS, but these plans have not been carried out at the scale necessary, with the result that once again, Jamaican citizens have had their health compromised by poor air quality.
JET is again calling on the Government of Jamaica to take effective action to stop the stockpiling and burning of waste tyres wherever it occurs, but especially in the communities near to the Riverton WDS, where it is especially frequent.
Suzanne Stanley, CEO, JET (470-7580 or 929-8805)