Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Full Court to hear claim against NSWMA over Riverton Fire

Published:Wednesday | September 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson/Assistant Editor - Business

The Court of Appeal has sided with a Supreme Court judge that a claim filed against the public cleansing agency, National Solid Management Waste Authority, NSWMA, for damages over a fire at the Riverton City dump in Kingston should be heard by the Full Court.

The NSWMA had sought to defeat the claim as a frivolous lawsuit.

However, Justice Frank Williams, who wrote the decision on behalf of the three-member Court of Appeal panel, agreed with Supreme Court Justice Audre Lindo that the claim was worthy of adjudication. Lindo had ruled that were novel points which included issues of constitutionality and redress which would best be resolved at a hearing by the Full Court.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2014 by Louie Johnson, Joya Hylton, Ernest Sandcroft, and a minor Lamoy Malabre - residents of Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine - alleging that their right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage was contravened by the NSWMA.

They alleged that the NSWMA has failed to effectively manage the Riverton City disposal site and they have suffered injuries as a result of a fire there that burned for six days from February 6, 2012, but produced fumes lasting up to the end of that month.

The Full Court hearing was initially set for May 8 to 10, 2017, but was delayed after NSWMA challenged the claim before the Supreme Court. Lindo dismissed the waste agency's application and reset the Full Court hearing for May 14 of this year. But the agency sought to have that ruling overturned on the basis that the lawsuit had no merit.

The Court of Appeal ruled however that the NSWMA has failed to demonstrate that it has a reasonable chance of success if it was allowed to appeal Lindo's order.

It's unclear when the Full Court hearing will now be heard.

Attorney Jalil Dabdoub who represented the NSWMA declined to comment on the matter. Attorneys William Panton and Kristopher Brown who represented Johnson, Hylton, Malabre and Sandcroft were not reached for comment.

The report by the Jamaica Fire Brigade about the February 2012 fire said the smoke and dust nuisance spread to communities as far as Portmore and Spanish Town, and that the severity of the smoke and dust nuisance resulted in the Ministry of Health advising residents of Kingston and St Andrew and sections of St Catherine, and in particular those living in the immediate surroundings of the Riverton City landfill, to take the necessary precaution to protect themselves until the fire was extinguished. Some schools and businesses were also ordered closed.

The National Environmental and Planning Agency, NEPA, also concluded in its report about the fire that it reduced the ambient air quality in Kingston, St Andrew and Portmore, and urged the NSWMA to "improve its management at all solid waste disposal sites inclusive of the Riverton disposal site to prevent the recurrence of major fires."

The claimants also pointed out that there have been at least 10 reported fires at the Riverton City disposal site in the last 12 years.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com