MONTEGO BAY, St James — Frustrated by another suspected case of arson at the Retirement Disposal Site in St James, executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) Audley Gordon is bemoaning what he says is an unnecessary stress on well-needed resources.
“It is with some level of frustration that I communicate yet another infringement of our landfill in Retirement, St James. It is really sucking resources that we don’t have, and to say that we are strapped for cash is an understatement because we know the times that we are in, and we have to divert what we don’t have to deal with these unnecessary incidents. It is really tough on us,” Gordon told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday.
In addition to the financial resources that are being strained due to the disposal site being lit, Gordon expressed concerns about the working conditions that the solid waste team is now being forced to tackle in their efforts to control the blaze.
“A landfill is a tough area to work in during normal times. It is not the best location for a workplace, let alone when you have to deal with a smoke nuisance and fire,” he said.
“We understand spontaneous combustions, they do happen, and we manage those regularly. But when you have deliberate incidents where people are clearly sabotaging the disposal site, it is really tough on us and the workers who have to deal with this,” Gordon added.
According to Gordon, the fire is believed to have erupted at approximately 2:00 am on Thursday, and similarly to the blaze there less than a month ago, this mysterious fire originated after dark in a section of the disposal site that is difficult to access.
“It is clear that we are being sabotaged because it is now a pattern — late nights at hard-to-reach areas of the disposal site. So the last time it was at phase two at 11:30 in the night, now it is at phase three at 2:00 in the morning,” the executive director explained.
He said that a lack of proper fencing and lighting at the landfill has created an environment for “people to exploit if they wish”.
While the disposal site is no stranger to spontaneous combustions, Gordon told the Observer that he does not doubt that the recent fires have been assisted as these incidences of dump fire differ due to the time of day they occur.
“You rarely see spontaneous combustions at nights when it is cool. The other thing is, they do not happen near the end of the disposal site where the landfill is open and it is easier for the gas to escape. When they do happen, you don’t see a rapid spread of the fire because it usually stays in one location, unlike the characteristics of the last two fires,” he said.
“I don’t know why anybody would choose to do that, but we are really appealing, whoever is doing this needs to stop,” Gordon said.
Thursday’s blaze resulted in smoke being emitted across several communities. Gordon told the Observer that while truck drivers and personnel from the Jamaica Fire Brigade have been engaged to control the fire, this smoke nuisance may plague residents for a few days.
“Usually the fire is the least of our problems. We can get that under control quickly, but the real problem is the smoke nuisance, and that sometimes lingers for days. We are going to be covering and compacting the area and hopefully, we will get it under control as soon as possible,” he said.