Guarding garbage - Lack of security leaves Riverton open to arsonists
Despite being the site of several major fires, with at least one believed to be the work of an arsonist, the Riverton City dump remains a free-for-all with anyone able to enter the approximately 120-acre property at will.
Following the last major fire at the landfill in March, investigators claimed the blaze, which cost $235 million to extinguish and forced scores of persons to seek medical attention, was deliberately set, and plans were announced to improve security at the facility.
The new security measures were slated to include surveillance cameras and restricted access to the site.
But last week, members of our news team gained access to the dump by using a dirt road, and from all indications this is a route frequented by persons entering and leaving the dump as several trucks were seen using that unofficial entrance.
Deportee living off dump
"You can come out here a daytime and dig the dump and go home with all a $2,500 in your pocket. You have supermarket rubbish, you have uptown rubbish and downtown rubbish, restaurant rubbish," said Clinton Newman, who has made his living at the dump since being deported from the United States.
Fifty-three-year-old Stephanie, who said she has spent most of her days on the dump for the past 25 years, confirmed that anybody can walk on to the dump.
"People come from way out come hustle, some a them even sleep on the dump; nobody not troubling you. You will have man who will come from far and come on the dump come hide," said Stephanie.
"The people them eat off the dump, me eat off it too. You have the biscuit trucks come, the trucks with the bottle drinks, and if mi thirsty mi will drink one or two. People will pick up and go back go all sell," she said.
Dennis Chung, head of the board of directors of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), conceded that securing the dump has proved challenging.
"It is not something that could be done immediately because we have to work with the environment, and also the bigger risk to the environment is what was needed to work on, which is the fire situation," said Chung, who was appointed to head the NSWMA board in April.
"I will be totally honest with you and tell you we have not got there, but what we are doing is moving to improve the situation day by day. Will we ever get there in terms of totally securing the dump? I don't know, because we have to consider the community.
"It will mean closing up all the entry points to the site, which is 120 acres. It would also mean that what you are going to be doing then is licensing pickers. All of them are informal now, so how do you get to that process of licensing pickers," added Chung.
He said to prevent another major blaze at the facility, a fire-suppression system has been put in place, as well as further measures such as burying the majority of the garbage on the site and reducing the space that can be dumped on at any given time to less than 10 acres.
"There are some others things that we have to do, but we have limited resources and we have to work with the community and, therefore, we have to do it in a very systematic manner," said Chung.
"The fact is that Riverton is really a work in process because what we really need to get to is sanitised landfills."