Wed | Sep 26, 2018

PSOJ concerned about dump fires impact on businesses, citizens

Published:Thursday | August 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer

The recent fires at the Riverton and Church Corner disposal sites in St Andrew and St Thomas, respectively, have negatively affected the health of thousands and put a dent in the operations of numerous business establishments, triggering concern by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).

"The PSOJ is concerned at the occurrence of yet another fire at our largest disposal site at Kingston and at the Church Corner dump in Morant Bay," the umbrella group said in a press release on Tuesday.

The PSOJ noted that the recurrence of these fires at several locations has cost the country more than $100 million this year alone and urged all Jamaicans to support the investigations into the causes of the fires and provide information.

 

Affects everyone

 

"This exorbitant expense from already scarce public funds, along with the debilitating impact these fires have on the environment and on the production of goods and services at scores of factories and businesses, is unacceptable. The impact is not limited to the business community. It extends to everyone who lives or works within the environs of these dumps in Kingston, Montego Bay, St Ann, and elsewhere," the statement read.

The statement continued: "We cannot continue to have noxious and life-threatening emissions. Proper collection, management, and disposal of our waste must become a priority if we are serious about national development".

In a letter to The Gleaner on Tuesday from WMW Jamaica, formerly the Women's Media Watch, a damning picture was painted of how severe effects of toxic fires are.

"The air quality in Jamaica has deteriorated. From 2010 to 2015, atmospheric particulate matter increased from 14 micrograms per cubic metre to 17 micro-grams," WMW disclosed.

"This is above World Health Organisation guidelines. The burning of polystyrene containers - including foam cups, egg containers, and food trays - releases dioxins, which are one of the most toxic substances to humans. The burning of plastics can increase risk of heart disease, rashes, and damage to the nervous and reproductive systems," the group added.

WMW further disclosed that from 2001 to 2005, there has been one fire annually at the Riverton dump. This has affected those living in the surrounding areas of St Andrew and St Catherine, with 22 per cent of the population at a very high risk of exposure to toxins.

The group also reported that children were overwhelmingly affected by the Riverton fires as their bodies were developing. According to WMW: "Approxi-mately 241,000 children lived near Riverton dump. In the 2015 dump fire at Riverton, 3,314 patients were seen at hospitals, the majority being children. Toxins can accumulate in pregnant women and transfer to infants through the placenta."

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com