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NSWMA saves millions thanks to JDF, CHEC - No rental of expensive heavy duty equipment to fight latest fire at Riverton

Published:Saturday | August 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Heavy-duty vehicles from CHEC being used to help extinguish the fire at the Riverton City landfill last week.
Dr Zhimin Hu

Quick response from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) saved the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) millions of dollars as it moved to put out the latest fire at the Riverton City Landfill.

The two entities rushed heavy duty equipment to the dump last Sunday after the fire started, allowing the NWSMA to hang on to the money that it would have had to find to pay private contractors for the use of their equipment.

"I cannot tell you how much money we saved this time around but I can tell you it was several million dollars," Audley Gordon, executive director of the NSWMA told The Sunday Gleaner.

In 2014 the NSWMA, with emergency funding from the Government, spent an estimated $128 million to extinguish a fire at the Riverton City facility and a further $235 million to put out another blaze in 2015.

This time around the expenditure has been much less and Gordon said this is the model to be used by the NSWMA going forward, particularly against the background that it appears the fires at the island's dumps are being deliberately set by persons seeking to profit from putting them out.

"I have to say thanks to the JDF and CHEC for their quick assistance and a special thanks to the men who drove the heavy duty equipment and the fire fighters who were on the ground.

"We know that the way we operate our landfills there could be fires at times but we are working to reduce the possibility of this happening and we have systems in place to address the fires quickly in the unfortunate cases where they happen," said Gordon.

The NSWMA boss also thanked the chairman of its board Dennis Chung and Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, for what he described as their leadership and support at a difficult period when four of the island's dumps were on fire, with at least two strongly believed to have been deliberately lit.

For its part, CHEC told The Sunday Gleaner that it had no reservation in coming to the help of the NSWMA.

"Once we received word of the fire at the Riverton City dump we knew we had to assist to bring it under control because people's lives were at5 stake," said Dr Zhimin Hu, vice-president of China Harbour.

"Jamaica is one of our homes away from home and we do not want anything bad to happen to our home. As part of our corporate social responsibility we are willing to respond to anything that put the well being of the people and the environment at risk," Hu added.

She said that CHEC is committed to enhancing the standard of living of Jamaicans and has been quietly participating in other areas including improving the facilities at schools close to its construction sites, the annual coastal clean-up day and back-to school programmes.

"These are just some of the ways that CHEC has been making our footsteps in the lives of Jamaicans and rest assured we will continue to contribute in any way we can," said Hu.