Fri | Feb 28, 2020

Stink start to New Year in Waterhouse

Published:Thursday | January 2, 2020 | 12:37 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Wilmot ‘Crackers’ Rowe walks amid a sea of garbage in his community of Bottom Capture Land in Waterhouse yesterday. Residents have resorted to throwing garbage in the gully, they say, because disposal trucks do not come there regularly.
Derrick Graham descends into the gully by walking down a mountain of garage in Bottom Capture Land, Waterhouse, yesterday.
A flock of turkey vultures, or John crows, gather at a section of the gully to feast.
Wilmot ‘Crackers’ Rowe talks about the garbage woes affecting his community of Bottom Capture Land in Waterhouse yesterday.
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New Year, same old woes.

The stench was sickening. Thousands of flies flittering around and John crows feasting on a carcass seemed to be just part of the daily routine along a stretch of the Sandy Gully that runs through a section of Waterhouse known as Bottom Capture Land.

Derrick Graham, 39, and senior citizen Wilmot ‘Crackers’ Rowe know well of Waterhouse’s garbage woes, which pose health and environmental risks and make everyday life unbearable.

They blame the problem on the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), the state-owned garbage agency, whose irregular collection is said to cause mounds of refuse to amass. As the odour attacks the nostrils of residents, they say they take recourse to rid themselves of the unbearable smell, often illegally burning the rubbish. That creates other problems, too.

New Year, same old woes.

The community also contends that garbage dumped by litterbugs further upstream – including the well-manicured suburbs of St Andrew – washes down, adding to their misery. But they do admit that responsibility for some of the mess lies at their feet.

Bad habits

That culture of disorder is one of the challenges the NSWMA will face in 2020 even as the Government enforces a ban on styrofoam and some plastics in a bid to remove non-biodegradable matter from dumps, gullies, and the sea.

“It’s a community thing. Rubbish weh you see yah so, a fi yaso, but all weh you see spread out down so, the business people them up that side throw down rubbish in the gully. The whole a we live pon the gully and through nuh rubbish truck nuh come, the people them throw things in the gully, and after a while, them light it,” Graham disclosed.

“Me woulda like it clean because a right here me live and me would like it clean because it would be a better environment and this can’t continue. When this (garbage) move, nobody can’t throw nuh more rubbish yah so, because we a go defend it. We affi defend it because even mi likkle Rasta bredren want to open him shop and him can’t because of the environment. Him open it and haffi lock it down because the whole a yah want clean up,” he added.

New year, same old woes.

Chairman of the NSWMA, Dennis Chung, acknowledged that the agency’s operations have been hamstrung by a shortage of trucks. The Government is said to be in the process of acquiring an additional 133 units by the second quarter of the year, he said.

But the nub of the problem, says Chung, is the disposal habits of residents – a matter that transcends Waterhouse and applies to scores of unplanned low-income settlements.

Chung said that a section of Waterhouse is serviced twice a week, but not with large trucks, because the lanes are too narrow for them to negotiate.

“They actually had a skip in place and what they used to do is burn things in the skip and damaged it. And even with the skip in place, they still put things in the gully,” Chung told The Gleaner. “Sometimes it’s not that we don’t clear the area, but people don’t containerise their garbage properly.”

Speaking from New York, Chung pointed out that as he walks the streets of the Big Apple at night, he observes business people putting out their garbage in skips and other designated areas, some of which are close to pedestrian traffic but without a whiff of nostril-assaulting odours. Why? Because garbage is properly containerised, said the NSWMA chairman.

That is in stark contrast to what happens in Jamaica, he said.

“What we have in Jamaica is that people throw out the raw garbage and then the truck man has to stop and shovel it up. So a street that should take 10 minutes to clean takes one hour. These are some of the issues that we face and have to deal with every day,” he said.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com