By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN environmental activist has raised concerns over the alleged stoppage of the compacting of waste material deposited at the New Providence Landfill, charging that such inaction leaves the site "vulnerable" to yet another massive fire.
Heather Carey, spokesperson for Raising Awareness about the Bahamas Landfill (RABL), claimed the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) had not compacted nor covered the waste material dumped at the site recently, despite consistently doing so in the lead-up to the general election.
However, DEHS director Melanie McKenzie denied the claims, insisting that compacting continues on a daily basis at the Harold Road site.
However, she explained that what is compacted daily is "residential waste" and not construction and demolition (C&D) waste, the latter of which she said is stored on a portion of the site.
"The C&D is an assortment of say old fridges, old stoves, which we try to take out and take somewhere else," Ms McKenzie said.
"Mattresses, all those things like that, wood waste from your house, concrete, that's never compacted. What we try to do with that is we try to take items out of that. So when you come onto the site or if they look on the site they may see mounds, but those mounds are C&D mounds and they're not compacted in the same way household garbage is compacted.
"We would try to separate out of that, which takes a long period of time, things that can be shredded or mulched. So you wouldn't expect to see old furniture compacted. That's what they're probably talking about."
When questioned further on the department's plans to deal with the accumulation of C&D material, Ms McKenzie said: "The mattress doesn't go anywhere. We don't have any way to recycle mattresses. They're just on site at the C&D. Now I'm sure plans are being made to recycle most of what we get in but at this moment those things aren't addressed, they're just stored."
She added: "As you would know the government is looking at a comprehensive plan for the site. That includes everything, recycling, composting, all of the integrated measures that make up solid waste management."
Nonetheless, Ms Carey told The Tribune that RABL understands the government's intent to address the matter in the long-term, but insisted that certain short-term measures can be taken to better tackle the issues surrounding the beleaguered site.
"…Yes, like everybody else of course we all want the remediation," Ms Carey said. "We believe 100 per cent that that's going to happen. We like all the proposals that the minister of environment and the minister of health have put forward. We think they're all on the right track.
"Our concern, what people need to understand is that in the immediate future is the fact that from what we can tell and the reports that we've had and from us going out there (Wednesday), is that what should be done on the most basic minimum requirement of dump management in order to prevent fires.
"While they're trying to figure everything else out, they need to be compacting and covering at the end of every single day," she continued. "That way the scavengers can't get access to it, the birds can't come in and spread diseases. So that's our concern because at the moment we still are the watchdogs for the community."
The city dump has been plagued with recurring fires for years, with a fire that started on March 5 considered as the worst to hit the site. Renew Bahamas was engaged by the government in 2014 to manage the landfill and help address the matter.
However, Renew Bahamas pulled out of that deal last year claiming low profitability. It had previously been seeking to renegotiate its management contract and associated financial terms with the former Christie administration, having revealed to Tribune Business that it had been incurring continuous, heavy losses.
Last month, former Minister of Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett confirmed that two bids had been submitted for the landfill's management and remediation.