By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
You can only really see it from the air. Hundreds of feet below New Providence’s landfill stretching out into the distance and now visibly right upto the edge of a major highway.
The stench of the dump - particularly as the weather heats up - has long been a major cause of complaint for residents whose homes border the landfill. When the wind blows the awful smell the dump produces invades every home; windows tightly shut to keep the smell outside.
In recent weeks, residents have become convinced the dump has undergone a major expansion with trucks visible on the horizon dumping and compacting waste.
But officials insist this is not the case and that no new areas have been brought into use and that none of its ongoing operations infringe on surrounding properties.
Thomasina Wilson, senior deputy at DEHS with responsibility for all landfills in the country, told The Tribune efforts to compact several sections of the landfill and develop a southern entrance have led to the speculation.
Ms Wilson assured the public any move to expand the property would come with adequate consultation, adding her office has undertaken a systematic process to complete both projects in a timely manner.
Over the past two weeks, The Tribune received reports of heavy machinery operating at, or very near properties which border the landfill to the south and the Milo Butler Highway to the east.
Those reports also suggested these operations led to loads of waste being pushed closer to the bordering properties.
In response, The Tribune visited the landfill on several occasions to monitor operations.
Ms Wilson said: “I don’t know where these types of reports come from, but trust me, everything we are doing here falls in line with compacting and the Fire Trail entrance.”
She said the compacting aspect of the operations have been common place, suggesting that those persons taking issue with it, may very well be the same persons opposing the Fire Trail Road entrance.
According to Ms Wilson, residents in the area took issue with the move and the influx of traffic it could cause.
She explained that repairs to the main Tonique Williams Highway entrance have forced officials to utilize Fire Trail Road entrance, a rarity until recently.
“Shortly after we started the Fire Trail entrance we got calls and complaints from those residents, so we tried to work with them,” Ms Wilson said.
“But, if we stopped sending trucks around back, it would limit the amount of loads we could take a day. The choice came down to cutting loads and that entrance. We can’t cut the loads,” she added.
“It isn’t possible.”
Ms Wilson said limiting loads would, in time, slow ongoing improvements at the property.
“We are doing what we can,” she said. “But there is a lot to get through and every move we make causes an issue with someone.”
“We want to do our best, it will take time but the public needs to work with us. It is going to take some give and take on both sides. We understand that, I hope the public can come around to that.”
This comes as the government continues its evaluation of the seven firms that have launched bids for the remediation and management of the landfill.
The firms announced include Apapa International (Nassau) Ltd, Bahamas Waste, Bahamas WPT Ltd, Eastern Waste Systems Ltd, Marine Contractors Inc, Providence Advisors and Valoriza Sevicios Medioambientales, S A.
The government is expected to make its choice this summer.
Renew Bahamas, the last firm to manage the landfill, withdrew services in October 2016 amid several disagreements with the former government.
DEHS, under the supervision of Ms Wilson, subsequently took over operations.