Negril struggles to find solution for garbage problem
MEMBER of Parliament for Western Westmoreland, Wykeham McNeil, has only a few days left to convince his constituents in Negril that it will be in their best interest to have a garbage transfer centre in their backyard.
Local government minister, Arnold Bertram, recently indicated that a solution has to be found to the resort town’s solid waste management problems by November. The transfer station is seen as one possible solution, but with the still-fresh memory of the stench of the area’s Mount Eagle Dump (before protesting residents forced its closure) McNeil appears to have his work cut out for him.
Minister Bertram has acceded that his colleague minister’s task will be difficult, as the usual concept of solid waste management is a huge mass of garbage dumped on an open lot. And the usual response from area residents when a landfill site is suggested is “not in my back yard”.
“Let us face it, Jamaica has been late in coming to terms with a solid waste management programme,” the local government minister said at the recent launch of the ‘Greening of Negril Solid Waste Management and Recycling Project’.
But citing the improvements made at landfill sites in Retirement, St James, and Riverton in Kingston, the minister assured his audience that the country had moved beyond that approach.
At the same time he warned the resort town that the time had come to address the issue, in their immediate environment, once and for all.
“Right now we have a problem and we have to fix it now,” he said. “We need to tackle (the issue of) Negril’s transportation of solid waste.”
Since the closure of the Mount Eagle Dump, several attempts have been made to identify an alternate site. But in addition to resistance from area residents, some of the sites have been deemed environmentally unsuitable.
In the meantime, Negril’s garbage is hauled to Montego Bay and dumped at the western city’s municipal dump at Retirement. But that current system has several drawbacks.
One St James parish councillor had criticised the ‘importation’ of out of town garbage, and had threatened to go as far as to block the road to prevent Negril’s waste from entering St James. Another concern was the efficiency of the current method, based on the capacity and number of Western Parks and Markets trucks available to transport the garbage, as well as the distance that has to be covered.
“WPM had looked at additional haulage capacity, but we have to find a place in Westmoreland that cuts the distance from Negril to Retirement,” minister Bertram suggested.
The local government minister has appealed to his colleague MP, McNeil — who is also the state minister for tourism — to help him convince area residents that a transfer centre would not be a smelly blemish in their town.
One option being examined is the international sourcing of mechanised transfer centres, into which the garbage would be dumped and then driven to the landfill site as soon as necessary. The other option is to store the waste at a small, temporary transfer station and have it periodically trucked out of parish.
“We are going to need to sit and come to a solution in the interest of Negril and the development of all of us,” minister Bertram urged. “We have to solve the problem of solid waste management between now and November (in preparation for the winter tourist season that begins on December 15). Either we have to access mechanical transfer stations or identify a site to be used as a transfer station.”
But both ministers appear to be leaning towards the transfer station.
“We could do recycling at the transfer centre, with a conveyor belt that does the separation,” Bertram told the Observer after the launch. “We’re trying to decrease what we transport as this will increase the life of the landfill site (in Retirement) and decrease transportation costs.”
And Minister McNeil added that an additional benefit of the transfer centre would be job creation, in Negril, as well as income generated from the recycled products.