Dons of the dump! - Bedward Gardens residents at risk as thugs operate illegal dumping ground in the area
It is an eyesore for those who have to pass it every day, but even worse, it poses a major environmental hazard, and the scores of residents living metres away, who are most at risk, are scared to speak up about it.
This is a massive illegal dump which has been established on land which was once a playground for children in a section of Bedward Gardens in August Town, St Andrew.
Now the football goalposts are still there, a painful reminder of what was once a happy playing field, but some of the children who played there years ago are now young men who spend their days collecting from the truck drivers who drop off their tons of filth in a community that has seen its fair share of tragedies over the years.
"We have issues with them dumping there, but all like how me old, when mi see them come and me tell them they must not dump there, them not listening to me. The man dem weh a do it, you can't stop them, because them just ignore you and collect a $500, and that's it," said an elderly woman who lives nearby.
"It was just today I was saying to someone that I wish it could push off and no more nuh dump there, because it almost gone to the river now, and them can't block the river," added the frustrated woman.
Grows with construction projects
Other residents say the dump, which was started some years ago, has been given new life in recent months with an increase in construction activities in the area.
Truck drivers no longer make the long drive to the established dump in Riverton. Instead, they make the short trek to this illegal site where they pay young men who lurk on the street corners between $500 and $1,000 to allow them to offload rubble, plastic and other forms of waste on the large plot of government land.
"It has been going on for many years. You have different people who dump there, because there is a lot of work going on over by the university and the dirt is dumped there, which is fine, but with all the construction and the rubbish, they don't bother go Riverton with anything anymore, they just carry it there," said John Hall*, who has lived in August Town for some time.
"So if you have a small truck, like a little two-ton truck, they charge you $500; for the bigger trucks, they charge $1,000 and the little guys just share up the money."
According to Hall, the large piece of land is now controlled by several different area leaders.
"You have different dons own certain sections, so if you want to go to certain sections you have to talk to this man, and to go to a next section you have to talk to a next man. So each 100 metre is a different set a man run it," said Hall.
"Some of the residents not really complaining because their people are benefiting, but this is a disgrace to our environment."
That is a view shared by Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust. "In general, dumps are hazardous to people because they either burn, they leach into groundwater or there are hazardous materials there that if the dump is not secure people go on to it," said McCaulay.
She warned that with the illegal dump existing just metres from the Hope River, in the event of a storm much of the debris will end up in the sea.
Member of Parliament for the area Juliet Holness, in an emailed response to The Sunday Gleaner, said she was not aware of the illegal dump, which is a matter for the authorities to deal with, using the tools that have been statutorily provided to them.
"This is a matter for the police and the National Environment and Planning Agency to deal with," said Holness.
"Where I can discourage, I will, but the state agencies must play their role in enforcing the law. I will have dialogue with the authorities to enquire as to what has and will be done to solve this challenge," added Holness.
Recently appointed chief technical officer at the National Solid Waste Management Authority, Audley Gordon, said he was only made aware of the presence of the illegal dump in the area after being contacted by our newsroom, but the matter will be seriously pursued.
"My enforcement arm will be working in collaboration with the police to put an end to it," said Gordon.
"We are duty-bound to act, as it falls within our remit. We will not allow any illegal dumping in the city, and the law speaks clearly to it. So we will be carrying out our investigations and taking steps to put an end to it."
When The Sunday Gleaner team visited the community last week, one of three young men seen sitting close to the dump site confirmed that part of the land was once used for the playing of football, but said it is now their little hustling.
"So the truck man dem come in and we charge them a small thing," the young man said. "We used to pay a tractor man fi push it over, but is a while now it nuh push weh still."
However, one resident told our news team that the last time the rubbish was levelled off, it was the police who were on hand with tractor men to do it.
Efforts to get a comment from the National Environment and Planning Agency have so far been unsuccessful.