Can We Please Have Action on Burning Dumps, Air Pollution and Solid Waste Management?

When are we ever going to get our act together regarding air pollution? Yesterday, a friend who lives in the hills above Montego Bay shared her photos of the thick clouds of smoke over the city, emanating from the Retirement dump. This is the second day of the fire.
This is an ongoing public health issue that we never seem to get to grips with – especially when the weather gets hot. Whatever the cause of the fire, this is a nightmare that cannot keep recurring. It has already affected the health of many residents of surrounding areas, including asthma sufferers (of which there are increasing numbers in Jamaica) – reporting from areas such as Pitfour, Tucker, Bogue and other neighborhoods. Note also: air pollution also contributes to climate change emissions. 
One leading member of the tourist industry said today: The Montego Bay residents are NOT silent! A lot of action is and has been happening to get the fires and the smog under control from yesterday. It will also need much better security at the site to ensure the arsonists who set fires are keep at bay!…Better solid waste management and drastic action by the government and all of us consumers to eliminate single-use plastic bags and styrofoam MUST be enacted!! 
I understand there is a proposed recycling site to be built in Granville in close proximity to the dump. It will purchase plastic bottles collected and sorted by individuals or organizations. It has been planned for two years, according to residents. When will this be ready and up and running?
Action, please. Action! What happened to the proposed plastic bag ban? What are we waiting for?
The burning dump in Retirement, near Montego Bay. (Photo: Facebook)
Here are Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET) thoughts on the matter…
July 15, 2018

JET statement on the fire at the Retirement Dump in St James

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is distressed to hear news of yet another fire at one of the island’s waste disposal sites, the second such incident in two weeks. Last night (July 14) JET began receiving reports that the Retirement dump in St James is on fire, which follows a June 28 fire at the Riverton dump in Kingston.
Dump fires are a major and significant source of air pollution and are a public health hazard for those living in close proximity to these sites. Dump fires are especially dangerous as they can emit dangerous fumes from the combustion of the wide range of materials contained within the dump – carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, volatile organics, dioxins, and furans.
The recurrent incidents at Retirement and Riverton point to the larger issue of inadequate management of Jamaica’s licensed dumps. Retirement, Riverton, and the five other licensed dump sites suffer from decades of neglect. None of Jamaica’s dumps are landfills – there is no control of leachate, methane emissions, and only very rudimentary separation. The conditions around, and in some cases on the dump sites, include informal settlements, animals being kept in unsanitary conditions, and people picking waste without protective gear – entirely substandard living conditions.
Proper, effective and efficient solid waste management has been a critical issue for Jamaica for decades, yet successive political administrations have failed to take the necessary action. Ministries, Departments, and Agencies continue to fail at carrying out their duties at an adequate level in order to protect the health of Jamaican citizens.
Waste management and public health are urgent priorities requiring expertise, accountability, enforcement, sufficient resources and most importantly – ACTION.
JET calls on the Government of Jamaica and its agencies to take urgent action to bring the fire at Retirement in St James under control and to take the necessary steps to prevent its reoccurrence. 
Contact: Suzanne Stanley, CEO, (876) 470-7580
NOT THE FIRST TIME: Retirement Dump, Montego Bay on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Environment Trust)

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