MoBay business people fume over smoke nuisance, consider leaving second city

Observer staff reporter

Friday, July 20, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — The Montego Bay business community is fuming over the smoke nuisance being caused by a fire at the Retirement disposal site in St James.

In fact, members of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) have flatly rejected Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie's apology for the nuisance, which is causing great discomfort to residents in surrounding communities here.

“We have heard an apology from the honourable minister of local government... We are of the considered view that this is an inadequate response and indeed unacceptable,” MBCCI President Winston Lawson said yesterday.

On Tuesday, while addressing the opening ceremony for the inaugural Local Governance Conference Jamaica 2018 at the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa in Rose Hall, St James, McKenzie, who congratulated the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) and the Jamaica Fire Brigade for their effort in bringing the fire under control, tendered an apology to residents who were affected by the smoke nuisance as a result of the dump fire.

“I have to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Government, to express to the residents of Montego Bay, to say how sorry we are for what has taken place. The Government, through the National Solid Waste Management Authority, has taken the necessary steps... including the Jamaica Fire Brigade, to bring the fire under control,” McKenzie expressed.

However, speaking at an impromptu press conference convened at the MBCCI Overton Plaza headquarters in Montego Bay, yesterday Lawson argued that it is unacceptable that the fire continues to rage at the dump site.

“One week after a fire erupted at the Retirement dump, the smoke is still engulfing the city of Montego Bay, causing immense discomfort and ill health to citizens who have been complaining of sore throat, asthmatic attacks, swollen eyes, and the taste of electricity on the tongue,” he said.

He added: “This immense problem has been affecting the communities of Camrose, Retirement, Granville, Bogue Village, Montego Freeport, Westgreen, Catherine Hall, and individuals as far as Sandy Bay in Hanover.”

Lawson described the fire as a disaster which has led some business operators to contemplate leaving Montego Bay.

“The situation is nothing short of a disaster. We have seen it, we have felt it, we have been inundated with the horrible experiences from residents of the surrounding communities, including our own members, as well,” the MBCCI president stated.

“We have persons, including business persons, who are seriously considering leaving Montego Bay until the problem is satisfactorily addressed.

“There is obvious impact on product and service providers… serious impact on productivity, and [it] raises serious concerns for our tourism capital,” he said.

The MBCCI president insisted that the resurfacing of the situation last week, weeks after a similar outbreak of a fire at the dump, should not only be addressed immediately, but once and for all.

“We are insisting that this matter be corrected to give the communities breathable space to which they are entitled. Our call is not just for an immediate fix but for a permanent fix. We call also on the Office of Disaster Preparedness [and Emergency Management] to urgently look at this current disaster and provide whatever assistance for resolve,” Lawson remarked.

“In 2018, it cannot be beyond the authorities to properly manage a dump site. We believe it is within the capacity of the authorities, and the chamber of commerce insists on the immediate and permanent resolution,” he said.

In a release yesterday, WPM Waste Management Limited said the fire has been extinguished but there is still smoke emanating from the area.

“It is projected that the remnants of the smoke will dissipate by latest Sunday, 22nd July, as we are 75 per cent completed in covering the affected areas with smoke suppressant materials,” it said in a release from the NSWMA.

WPM Waste Management Limited also apologised for the discomfort that residents are experiencing.

“We assure you that the agency is doing its utmost to return the Retirement disposal site to normalcy in the shortest possible time,” it said.

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