Wed | Jul 17, 2019

Residents, businesses call for permanent fix to Retirement fire nuisance

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2019 | 12:20 AMAdrian Frater and Mark Titus/Gleaner Writers

Western Bureau:

Residents and members of the business community in St James are questioning the commitment of the authorities in preventing the outbreak of fires at the Retirement dump in the parish despite years of promises.

Sections of St James and Hanover have been blanketed with smoke for days due to a fire which began at the Retirement Disposal Site last Saturday. While the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) said the fire had been brought under control yesterday, smoke is still emanating from the area. It is expected to return to normality by Wednesday.

Yesterday, residents in several communities on the outskirts of Montego Bay and on the Hanover-St James border were hopping mad that, yet again, they were being affected by the nuisance.

“Can you imagine a person with asthma trying to survive in this thick smoke for 48 hours?” an irate Granville resident lamented yesterday. “I am really disappointed and frustrated because this is just unnecessary stress on the community. Last year, we were told that measures would be put in place to prevent future fires.”

Reduced visibility hampers drivers

Motorists also complained about the snail’s pace at which they had to drive with headlights on as thick smoke significantly reduced visibility as they headed into St James from Hanover.

“It was quite a trying experience as while some drivers were taking their time to be on the safe side, you had the impatient road hogs, who were pushing and squeezing their way through,” a motorist told The Gleaner.

Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Winston Lawson said the fire had caused “major inconvenience and distress” and again called for the authorities to find a permanent fix to the Retirement woes.

“We received several complaints from our membership and citizens alike regarding immense discomfort and ill health ranging from asthmatic attacks, swollen eyes and [a strange] taste ... on the tongue. We also were made aware that at least one business would be shutting temporarily,” he said in a release.

“We again appeal to the authorities to rectify this matter with alacrity and on a permanent basis. The situation is grossly unacceptable and influences concerns as to whether the authorities are not concerned enough about finding a permanent solution to this problem,” Lawson added.

Following a similar fire at the dump site last July, Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis called for the removal of all unauthorised persons from the site and for proper security measures to prevent unauthorised access.

“In securing the dump, we will have to make the [surrounding areas] sterile,” Davis said at the time. “The dump needs to be secured by fencing, secured by surveillance cameras, and secured by the necessary security [manpower].”

When The Gleaner tried to find out from Western Parks and Markets Waste Management Limited whether the recommendations were implemented, we were referred to NSWMA Executive Director Audley Gordon, who said he was in a meeting and unable to respond.

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com