MONTEGO BAY, St James — As heavy smoke continues to emit from the Retirement disposal site in St James, Councillor Michael Troupe (People’s National Party, Granville Division) is lashing out against Western Parks and Market Waste Management Limited (WPM) for what he described as “poor management”.
Troupe, who told the Jamaica Observer that the dump fire has been pushing harmful smoke across the communities he represents since last Thursday, said he has heard that a lack of equipment can be blamed for the residents’ lengthy wait for relief.
However, he strongly believes that the problem with equipment is stemming from improper financial control as independent contractors are reportedly turning away due to a lengthy wait for payments.
“I don’t think any equipment is working there because of the lack of resources and their poor management,” Troupe said on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if it is the financial resources they don’t have or human capital, but everything boils down to poor management. They need to get enough finance so they can pay for the equipment because people have been withdrawing their equipment because they take six months to get paid. They can’t even get to buy gas oil,” Troupe charged.
“They have about five different blocks where they dump waste for a particular amount of time, then they cover it and move to somewhere else. But they are not doing that because the equipment there is not even fit for working at the dump. They don’t have any heavy duty equipment readily available to do the work,” he continued.
But, acting regional operations manager at WPM Dramaine Jones maintained that this is not the solid waste team’s current reality.
“From time to time the payments have been late, however, for the past five months we have been up to date with payments to suppliers. I’m not sure where that statement would have come from. Independent contractors have the right to refuse to work if they don’t accept the rates. We utilise rates that are set based on the budget that is given,” Jones told the Observer.
Responding to concerns regarding the heavy smoke coming from the disposal site, Jones told the Observer that a fire started in one of the cells last Thursday. He also confirmed Councillor Troupe’s statement that there was in fact an issue acquiring equipment to maintain the property.
“There has been an equipment issue on site. The smoke has re-emerged on the edge of the cell; however, equipment has come in to assist in the interim to suppress the smoke,” Jones said on Tuesday.
“The contractor has since mobilised equipment. The fact of the matter is that the disposal site is a harsh environment and equipment will be prone to breakdowns,” he added.
Jones stated that both the solid waste team and members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade have begun working to address the situation.
When the Observer visited the dump on Tuesday, people living near the landfill stated that they have not been affected by the smoke. Though a thick blanket of smoke can be observed from the nearby communities of The Estuary and Meadows of Irwin, there was no evidence of this dump fire lingering in Retirement.
Councillor Troupe, however, pointed out that residents in other sections of the Granville Division are being affected “in several ways”.
“For me, I have to lock myself inside my house because I have serious respiratory and sinus issues. I know a lady living in Pitfour who either has to relocate whenever the dump is on fire or lock up inside her house. It affects a lot of people,” he told the Observer.
“When the dump is blazing is better than when there is pure smoke. The smoke is the problem and that is what is affecting the residents,” said Troupe.
In the past, smoke from disposal sites have been found to contain hazardous substances including cancer-causing benzene and particulate matter that health experts have said can cause mild to severe effects on the respiratory tract, including lung irritation.