Mon | May 29, 2017

Letter of the day: The Poisoning of our People

Published:Thursday | March 19, 2015 | 3:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The juxtaposition of the Riverton City dump, less than four miles as the crow flies from the city, with residential communities such as Callaloo Bed and Seaview Gardens, and across the road from numerous commercial offices, was at all times a disaster waiting to happen. The best things in life are free, including clean air, which we need to breathe, and through which we view and enjoy the scenic beauty of Jamaica. Since last week, we became prisoners locked in a poisonous chamber named Kingston and St Andrew. We have been stunned by the graphic pictures in the media of distressed schoolchildren collapsing and then flooding medical facilities, stretching them thin. Dr Michael Banbury confessed he has never seen anything like this before in his 32 years of practice.

I feel deeply for the young, the old, and those suffering respiratory conditions, for whom this man-made crisis poses a threat to their health and lives. What also give me great concern are the following:

a. Will the nation be told, item by item, the names of specific toxic materials on fire at the dump which are entering our lungs in a cocktail of poisonous fumes now stretching like a blanket of curse over our people?

b. Is this punishment the price we pay for the fact that the Riverton City dump was a grossly mistaken idea in terms of its location?

c. Is there any truth to the rumour that this national disaster benefits truckers and others who have repeatedly presented the said enterprising truckers with an incentive to employ one of the dump prowlers to "light it up" and thereafter "eat a food"?

Only heaven knows the long-term fallout of chronic illnesses that will beset the poor people of Seaview Gardens, Duhaney Park, Cooreville Gardens, and surrounding communities, whose location has made them daily breathers of poison from dump smoke. Take a trip to Seaview - which is only separated from the dump by a bridge and a gully - and you will see not only polluted air, but smell an offensive stench many residents are no longer capable of discerning. They have lost their sense of smell over time! What a disgrace! It is a sad irony that all the refuse we have given up to be dumped has returned to haunt us.

 

our constitutional rights

 

Being affected by the smoke myself at this time, I would love to leave writing to search for somewhere to breathe more easily, but I am prepared to forego that escape for a few moments longer to give some free legal advice. The common law makes it clear that, if you allow a dangerous substance to escape from your property, you are liable to those who suffer personal or property damage. Further, one of the new constitutional rights we now enjoy as at April 7, 2011, is the right to a safe and healthy environment. The claims which can flow from what I have witnessed so far (the damage is continuing as I write) are astronomical by any measure. Let the chips fall where they may, I say. One of the tests employed by the courts is, "was the risk known to those who operate the dump?" Your guess is as good as mine.

The answer may, sadly, leave all of us breathless, and the State penniless.

BERT SAMUELS

Attorney-at-law

bert.samuels@gmail.com