Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Beetham landfill a major hazard


Mark Fraser

We all know that the gases escaping from the Beetham dump contain toxic pollutants that directly cause asthma, and other serious respiratory ailments. Well-proven studies link living near landfills with cancer, where escaping gases will typically contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals including volatile organic compounds. All such dumps also leak toxic leachate; even “engineered” landfills will eventually leach and pollute nearby groundwater. The Beetham was started in a mangrove swamp with shallow ground water— the worst place for a landfill. When landfills catch fire the partially combusted smoke can be deadly if there is persistent exposure.

For almost two decades Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) has pointed out the unsatisfactory situation at the Beetham dump. Administrations have come and gone and nothing has ever been done. Unqualified persons have been repeated appointed to the board and management of Solid Waste Management Co Ltd (SWMCOL). Party friends and relatives have come and gone. The current minister responsible has no knowledge of or experience in solid waste management . A quick look at the board members suggests the same.

Waste management has become the critical environment issue of the decade. Here in T&T, whether it is waste burning in the Beetham, or Corexit 9500 mixed with oil sitting at the bottom of the Gulf of Paria or unregulated quarrying in the mountainside, we live unsustainably and without regard for ourselves. It is not only sad but a wasted opportunity and failed responsibility. FFOS is dedicated to making environmental and public health a national mainstream issue for politicians to be held accountable.

Any visitor heading to the Hyatt only has to drive by the Beetham to know how Third World our rich little oil/gas economy actually is. Poverty on the right and pollution on the left. They tend to go hand-in-hand.

Who has to prove that Sea Lots and Beetham residents may have the highest levels of respiratory diseases (perhaps much more so than the resident of Queen’s Beach, in La Brea) who were recently exposed unnecessarily to a month of intense air pollution, because we here in this oil/gas republic have no working contingency plans for when things go wrong. Our nation is saddled with a mind-boggling public health expense that is reflective of this mismanagement and disregard for environmental and public health.

Can the chairman and board of SWMCOL explain what they have done to remedy the annual fires and if not, can someone advise when they might be fired and replaced with competent persons?

Can the eloquent and verbose Attorney General Anand Ramlogan explain why we still have no legislation to control domestic wastes, hazardous wastes, water pollution and air pollution even though regulations have been prepared over a decade ago? Could he venture to answer where all the spent radioactive wastes from X-ray machines throughout the country end up?

In 2014 FFOS will mount an unprecedented public awareness campaign to force environmental issues onto the political platforms in the upcoming general elections. We shall not stand by while unqualified and self-serving politicians continue to ruin the health of innocent and unsuspecting communities. Pollution must join poverty, crime and corruption centre stage in the next elections.

Terrence Beddoe and Gary Aboud

via e-mail