By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
ENVIRONMENT Minister Kenred Dorsett yesterday said there is no definite date set for when Jubilee Gardens residents will be able return to their homes, as he revealed details of the government’s “comprehensive” plan to tackle the chronic issues at the New Providence Landfill.
In the House of Assembly yesterday, the Southern Shores MP said the Christie administration’s plan involved shipping used tyres at the landfill out of the country, methane extraction technologies to mitigate against future fires and additional water wells drilled and trenched around the entire site to better facilitate fire fighting efforts, among other things.
Beyond revealing that the shipping company tasked with handling the dump’s used tyres would visit the landfill later this week, Mr Dorsett did not give a definite timeline of when the measures would take effect.
He said he also reached out to the United States government for assistance. However, he did not go into detail regarding how the US might assist, but he said discussions on this matter were ongoing.
Residents in Jubilee Gardens evacuated their homes on Sunday after a fire at the landfill blanketed the community in thick, black hazardous smoke.
The fire also threatened some homes in the area, however officials have said no houses were destroyed. In this regard, Mr Dorsett said assessments of homes and businesses will begin “in earnest” once the fire at the landfill has been completely extinguished.
“As Prime Minister Christie stated on Monday, assessments will be conducted on all homes and businesses impacted by the fire in an effort for the government to provide the necessary assistance,” Mr Dorsett said in an update to the House of Assembly yesterday.
No homes destroyed
“I want to reiterate that no homes were destroyed during the blaze as erroneously reported on social media, but from the naked eye considerable soot and smoke damage appeared evident throughout the Jubilee Subdivision.
“Toward this end while no definite date can be given for the return of residents affected by the fire, fire (chief) Superintendent Walter Evans advised me yesterday (Tuesday) that significant improvement has occurred in the area, namely the visibility level increasing and colour of smoke changing, which makes breathing bearable for residents.”
Regarding the government’s measures at the landfill, Mr Dorsett also said: “Mr Speaker, a new temporary tipping floor has been completed under the guidance and instruction of our consultant engineers and today the landfill resumes tipping of all waste streams excluding construction and demolition waste.
“Another tipping floor is being completed also under the direction of our consultant engineers, which will enable us to resume full waste receiving activities next week.
“Bins for electronic waste, hazardous waste, plastics, tyres, and white waste will be placed on the landfill to ensure that such waste are not tipped into the landfill,” Mr Dorsett said.
“In a few weeks additional bins will be placed in the entrance of the landfill to enable tipping of waste under 100 pounds to ensure that they can be facilitated thus ensuring that private vehicles and trucks do not have to enter the landfill. Green waste will be diverted to a specified area under the control of the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority green waste will be sorted and mulched. “The material will be available for the use of farmers and for island wide beautification. The public should also note that mulch from hurricane debris is now available at the Department of Environmental Health Services on Farrington Road and contact should be made to that office for persons interested in the same.”
“One of our major shipping partners will visit the New Providence Landfill later this week and we will begin placing all used tyres on the landfill in containers for shipment out of the country. The government has completed a comprehensive plan for the New Providence Landfill. It outlines all efforts that will be undertaken at the landfill to solve the challenges it currently faces,” he continued.
“Currently the public should be advised that additional water wells will be drilled, trenched and capped, around the entire site to better facilitate fire fighting efforts. In addition a buffer around the entire site would be cleared for ease of access and mobility for security monitoring of the perimeter and proper perimeter security fencing and proper check points will be established to eliminate illegal entry into the area.
“Methane extraction technologies will also be used to mitigate against future fires in areas that have been covered and compacted.
“The public should also note that after 13 years of no compaction taking place at the landfill, when the DEHS took over the landfill a few weeks ago, we tested the employment and use of a compactor for daily operation,” the minister said.
On Monday Mr Dorsett said residents in Jubilee Gardens will have to wait at least five to seven days before the evacuation order is lifted and they are “safely” allowed to return to their homes.
At a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Dorsett said firefighters do not expect the fire at the New Providence Landfill to be extinguished for approximately a week.
He said firefighters are battling two different types of fires, one at the landfill and a forest fire in the surrounding areas.
The city dump has been plagued with recurring fires for a number of years. Renew Bahamas was engaged by the government in 2014 to manage the landfill and help address the matter, however the company ended its services in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew last October.
The government subsequently took over management of the landfill.