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Tuesday 22 October 2019
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SWMCOL: Landfills in TT require remediation

The Forres Park Landfill
The Forres Park Landfill

LANDFILLS in this country are in urgent need of remediation. That, however, must be done in tandem with the installation of alternative waste disposal/management options such as waste reduction/minimisation, recycling or special waste treatment systems says Solid Waste Management Company Ltd (SWMCOL) acting CEO Aisha Clarke-Roach.

“These initiatives include the Community Youth Outreach Programme which focuses on different communities be it schools or civil society with the sole aim of raising awareness of proper waste disposal practices using tools tailored to the needs of the community.

“The Public Sector Recycling Programme (PSRP) and Workplace Waste Reduction and Recycling Programme (WRAP) both focus on recycling at work, concentrating on the reduction, collection and recycling of paper and post-consumer beverage bottles.” On Wednesday last, former president Anthony Carmona raised concerns about the Beetham landfill.

He said, “How is it we have allowed the citizenry of the Beetham and Sea Lots to breathe such carcinogenic air year after year? We have been asleep at the gates of environmental protection. In urbanised communities, clean air is becoming a diminishing commodity, a feature of the past and a stark reminder of generational irresponsibility.”

Responding to questions submitted by Newsday via an e-mail, when asked what is SWMCOL’s plan to deal will the landfill, Clarke-Roach said the Air Pollution Rules of 2014 were designed to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of air pollution.

Clarke-Roach said SWMCOL recognises the value of an Integrated Waste Management System that adopts sustainable approaches to waste / resource treatment rather than the sole reliance of landfilling where valuable resources are lost.

Clarke-Roach said those waste-diversion strategies would alleviate the burden on the landfills and allow for a shift in waste management to more sustainable/integrated systems.

She said, to date, SWMCOL has implemented four recycling programmes. Additionally, Clarke-Roach said SWMCOL, in partnership with municipalities, made recycling at home an option with company’s Curbside Recycling Programme in areas of San Fernando, Arima, Couva, Tunapuna Piarco and Port of Spain.

Clarke-Roach also said SWMCOL was in the process of conducting the studies for the development of the engineered landfill in this country. She said a characteristic risk of landfill operations was landfill fires.

“It is important to distinguish an actual landfill fire from that of fires set by salvagers for metal extraction. SWMCOL is very concerned of the impacts of landfill fires and implements its annual Landfill Fire Prevention, Control and Mitigation Plan that has resulted in a consistent decline in the numbers and extent of these fires.”

“The plan includes strategic configuration of the landfill face/active areas and the creation of buffer zones that minimise the impact of fence-line bush fires.”

Clarke-Roach said annual stakeholder sessions were held with the municipal support functions of the Disaster Management Units (DMUs) within the various regional corporations and other stakeholders for strategic networking and support of SWMCOL’s Emergency Management and Fire Plan.

She said SWMCOL continued to monitor the air quality at all its sites in accordance to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Air Pollution Rules of 2014. When asked what are some of the challenges SWMCOL face on a daily basis, Clark-Roach said, “Landfill operational plans are seasonal and heavily influenced by weather conditions. In the dry season there is the risk of landfill fires, whereas in the wet season the active ‘tipping’ areas where waste is off-loaded can become inaccessible.

“Another common challenge associated with non-engineered/unsanitary landfills is salvaging. Salvaging presents constant operational, health, safety and security risks which SWMCOL has negotiated over the years. SWMCOL has implemented greater security initiatives coupled with providing sustainable jobs for salvagers to be medicated against this risk.”

The EMA yesterday advised that the public limit outdoor activities in instances where the air quality may be unhealthy. “Under the rules, SWMCOL has submitted an application for the Beetham Landfill to be registered as an emitter of air pollutants. Through this process, an Air Quality Assessment (AQA) will be conducted.”

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