For the past few days, residents living near the local landfill have been subjected to toxic fumes and heavy plumes of thick black smoke as a result of multiple long burning fires at that site.
Unfortunately for residents living in the area, this is nothing new. For years, successive administrations have pledged to address the multitude of concerns that exist surrounding the landfill. Instead, those promises have turned out to be nothing more than political rhetoric, as residents continue to be exposed to what can only be described as a toxic time bomb waiting to explode.
In its Charter for Governance, this PLP administration bemoaned what it called a careless attitude in the fight to safeguard the environment. However since taking office two years ago, they have seemingly adopted the very course of action which the party lamented while in opposition.
While the dump burns, we have a Government and persons from the Environmental Health Department whose only advice to suffering residents is visit your nearest clinic! We have a Government who has yet to lay out a concrete plan to properly address this island’s chronic waste management issues. We have a Government who, rather than focusing its efforts on the myriad of environmental issues now plaguing our beautiful country, its main concern is with a botched referendum, traveling without result and legacy.
Recent media reports have suggested that these most recent fires may be the work of arsonists. What security measures, if any, does this administration propose to prevent what is clearly becoming a trend? Certainly the reaction of the nation’s governmental leaders on this issue leaves much to be desired.
In light of the frequency and severity of landfill fires here in the capital in recent months, The Democratic National Alliance is led to question whether or not the government is in fact overseeing the proper management of that site.
The ineptitude surrounding the management of the landfill is not limited to this administration however; while in office under the former FNM administration, I spoke personally with the party’s leadership in an attempt to facilitate some level of action. My concerns were, for the most part dismissed, as they apparently did not line up with the agenda of the moment.
The local landfill, which covers hundreds of acres, consists primarily of two disposal sites known as cells. These cells are further separated to accommodate household garbage and waste, as well as construction and demolition waste. Both waste streams include toxic materials like used oil, batteries, pesticides, paints, and solvents. On any given day, huge quantities of used tires are also piled up in a separate area, along with other forms of debris.
The decomposition of these various forms of waste, produce large amounts of gas which can, without proper ventilation, spark fires which burn uncontrollably beneath the surface for days at a time. The resulting fumes represent a huge threat both to the environment, and to human health; containing dangerous chemicals like mercury and dioxin which have been linked to respiratory distress, gene mutation, and even damage to the body’s reproductive tissue.
The truth is that while garbage never really goes away, there are alternatives to the current method of waste disposal; the government is not without recourse.
Experts see waste-to-energy facilities as the only viable large-scale alternative to landfills. And in a small island state like the Bahamas, the ability to generate electricity from our waste stream is a major bonus. An even greater bonus would be removing waste disposal from the national budget.
By the government’s own admission it has received any number of proposals designed to take advantage of the many advancements in the area of waste to energy conversion. Those proposals which essentially call for the privatization of the solid waste management would seek to integrate local waste disposal firms into some form of public-private partnership; reducing the reliance on costly fossil fuels while getting a handle on our critical solid waste problem. So far however, both administrations have allowed these proposals to gather dust while residents are forced to live through unhealthy conditions.
As a resident of one of the communities directly affected by the ongoing mismanagement of the city landfill, I call on the government to act on behalf its people and take immediate steps to address the problem in the interest of public health and safety.
To date the Government past and present have been negligent in its duties in allowing this facility to continue to be in this state. Consequently, this has resulted in a multitude of health issues for residents, damage to the environment, damage our tourist industry, closure of businesses and damage to property. Perhaps a class action suit against the Government will get their attention to act in protecting our environment and the Bahamian people!