by Sandra CA Ferguson
Landfill on Fire:
It was just over a month ago that we the people became aware of a significant problem confronting the nation. The Perseverance Landfill was on fire with the resulting smoke and air pollution.
While this phenomenon had become an annual challenge, apparently this year it was worse than usual, going on for well over 2 months, to the detriment of persons in surrounding communities in particular, Brizan and communities/residents on the parish boundary. A newscast about a month ago featured a press conference with officials of the Grenada Solid Waste Management who advised that the authority was unable to take the usual action to remedy the situation because of the “social/physical distancing” protocol in place to address the Covid-19 challenge.
Now just this last week, we learned that the landfill – 11 acres of refuse – is still on fire and this situation is likely to continue for some time. In an attempt to get the fire under control, the Grenada Solid Waste Authority intended to introduce some new measures. The General Manager took his time to explain the cause of these annual fires:
- The degradation of the organic waste releases heat and the gas, methane. When the heat and methane are exposed to oxygen, it results in fire which is fuelled by the continued release of the methane gas.
- The landfill was not designed to be a sanitary landfill (?) so it does not have a network of pipes running through the landfill in order to collect the methane and “flame it”, i.e. burn it.
He also acknowledged the health risks posed by the fires, particularly to people in the surrounding communities – aggravation of existing upper respiratory tract illnesses and health risks as a result of exposure to the toxic fumes resulting from the burning of hazardous wastes.
Undoubtedly, this extended exposure to the pollution created by the landfill fires has already resulted in various manifestations of ill health including respiratory illnesses. It is also useful to note that respiratory illness increases the risks for persons exposed to the Covid-19 virus. This therefore means that the citizens in the surrounding communities are being doubly disadvantaged in our current Covid-19 scenario.
One appreciates the challenge facing the Grenada Solid Waste Management Authority. However, it is unfair and unacceptable that the citizens of the surrounding communities should have to endure exposure to this level of pollution for such an extended period. One hopes that the citizens being affected by the landfill fire could be brought some relief soon. What would be the response if this situation affected Happy Hill proper or another community in the South?
The Responsibility of We the People:
Covid-19 has thrust upon Grenada an unusual situation and unusual measures such as social distancing have been brought into force. This therefore suggests that unusual measures may have to applied if the suffering of the good citizens of Brizan and other surrounding communities is to be relieved. The situation therefore invites we the people to take a look at our contribution to the problem of fires at the landfill and the suffering inflicted on our fellow citizens in the surrounding communities. Except in the cases of illegal dumping, all solid waste is disposed of at the landfill. We put it out to be collected or place it in a communal bin from which it is taken away. Out of sight! Out of mind! Not OUR problem anymore! Currently, OUR WASTE is creating a BIG problem for the people of Brizan and the surrounding communities! And this could lead to bigger problems with the risks of Covid-19!
The current Covid-19 situation and current challenge of the landfill fires present an OPPORTUNITY for the Grenada Solid Waste Management Authority to introduce some measures which require the active participation and co-operation of we the people to alleviate the incidence of fires at the Perseverance landfill and the resultant air pollution. While it would not solve the problem this year, we would be well on our way to alleviating/preventing that problem in 2021.
- Waste Separation: Bearing in mind, the problem of fires is largely caused by the organic waste which can be addressed by composting rather than dumping at the landfill, would we the people be willing to separate our waste into organic and non-organic, so that the organic waste could be taken away and treated separately. That would be a first and SIGNIFICANT step in addressing the problem. Each parish could have a central compost facility which could be operated by the authority or privately.
- Composting: But it is even easier and less costly, if households could compost at home. Some households and hotels are already composting their organic waste which is then used as manure for their gardens – a contribution to reduced costs for vegetables and improved nutrition and health for household members. Farmers are making and purchasing compost.
- Compost Bins: Perhaps the authority, where necessary, could provide households with a compost bin for a nominal fee or even free – just as how the Ministry of Education has promised tablets and smartphones to households to facilitate virtual education; both being Covid-19 response measures in the current context.
- Micro-business Potential: Composting offers the potential for micro-businesses. It could be recommended as an area for the stimulus package re post-Covid-19 recovery measures.
- Potential Savings: Composting by households could result in significant savings re the operations of the authority. Remember, the operations of the authority are funded by the tax dollars belonging to we the citizens. We must then ensure that the tax dollars that are freed up are applied to priorities such as community health facilities and improved salaries for our nurses.
The citizens of the surrounding communities of the Perseverance landfill should not have to endure pollution and suffocation each year to facilitate waste disposal for the convenience of we the people and the proper sanitation and good health of the country as a whole. This should be a shared responsibility. The Grenada Solid Waste Management Authority must take the lead and we the people must play our part. The people of Brizan and other affected communities deserve better!