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'Smoke Killing Us!' — 'We can't live like this'

MoBay residents angry; chamber wants management shake-up at Retirement Dump

BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-large
cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) yesterday called for a shake-up in the management of the Retirement Dump in St James, and for Government to consider divesting the facility, as smoke from the landfill continues to affect people in several communities.

“We are of the strong view that the management of the dump is the main cause of the problem. The dump is not properly managed and this is having consequential effects on residents and businesses,” MBCCI President Winston Lawson told the Jamaica Observer late yesterday.

In a release earlier, the chamber expressed concern that, just under a year ago, the resort city of Montego Bay was engulfed in smoke which resulted in major inconvenience and distress.

Yesterday, the chamber said it had received several complaints from its members and citizens alike, “regarding immense discomfort and ill health ranging from asthmatic attacks, swollen eyes, and the taste of electricity on the tongue”.

“We also were made aware that at least one business would be shutting temporarily to avoid the inherent dangers of the fumes,” the statement added.

Last July, smoke blanketed several communities in the Montego Bay area — including Bogue Village, Pitfour Retirement, Porto Bello, Granville, and Montego West — for almost two weeks, due to a fire at the landfill. The cause of the blaze, it was later revealed, was the work of arsonists.

Yesterday, Aubyn Green, a resident of Montego West — a new housing development near Granville — was among several residents who said that the smoke is cause for grave health concerns.

“I have been under siege from smoke that has blanketed the community since just a day or so short of a week. The smoke has triggered my sinus headache, resulted in severe burning of my eyes and all of that. I have to be locked up inside the house,” Green complained bitterly.

Another resident, who lives in the Porto Bello area, was also angry about the smoke nuisance.

“It's terrible, we can't live like this; the smoke is killing us,” said the resident, who did not want to be named.

Yesterday, the St James Public Health Services said it was working with all the relevant agencies to closely monitor the smoke nuisance resulting from the fire.

“There is currently no open fire, however, there is persistence of smoke nuisance,” the health agency said in a press release.

It said people should avoid exposure to the smoke by minimising all outdoor activities; those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses should cover mouth and nose with a clean, damp rag to protect themselves from inhalation of smoke and dust particles; children should be kept indoors as much as possible; windows and doors should be kept closed as much as possible to prevent exposure to smoke and dust, and parents should look out for any difficulty in breathing or any discomfort that their child may experience,” the health service said.

It also advised people with heart or lung conditions and other chronic diseases, to continue to take their medications as prescribed.

“Anyone who is experiencing difficulty breathing, wheezing or tightness in the chest should seek urgent medical assistance,” it urged.

Sharnon Williams, customer relations officer at Western Parks and Markets (WPM) Waste Management Limited, said the agency was alerted to the fire at the landfill last Saturday.

The fire, she noted, has been extinguished, “just that there is a lot of smoke now in the area.”

She said teams are now working assiduously on the site to suppress the smoke, adding that the facility is expected to return to normalcy tomorrow (Wednesday).

The origin of the fire, she said, is yet to be ascertained.

Williams, in the meantime, has expressed regret for any inconvenience that the smoke has created for residents.

The WPM Waste Management Limited falls under the umbrella of the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

— Additional reporting by Horace Hines


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