IT MATTERS TO MARIA: Neighbours fed up with being smoked out
A gully separates residents of Blackman Tenantry, St Joseph, from their neighbours in Claybury, St John, but fire is keeping them connected in a very negative way.
At least once a week, a man living at Claybury burns garbage in the gully, leaving his St Joseph neighbours smoked out and gasping for breath.
Alfred Austin, a police officer who grew up and lives in Blackman’s, is totally fed up with the illegal burning which he said has been going on every week for the past two years. He is calling on health authorities to arrest the situation which he says is already out of control.
Standing on top of the gully and pointing down below, Austin said he witnesses when the man, whom he described as a truck driver, offloads garbage from his truck into the gully and then burns it.
“I see him when he’s standing there; I see him when he dumps the garbage, and I see him when he lights it,” Austin said, as he estimated the width of the gully between Blackman’s and Claybury to be about 500 feet.
In the area where he pointed, one could clearly see a huge burnt patch, and on this particular day, it was still smoking from the fire that was lit the day before.
Austin said that day was the last straw.
“All the residents come out here complaining; all out here was smoky, smoky, smoky. There are several asthmatics who live out here,” he noted.
It was also the first time they were able to get an environmental health officer to come to the area.
“A neighbour called one of the polyclinics and a health officer turned up. She was very annoyed because she got a brunt of the smoke and she told us she would deal with it,” Austin said.
It was the first time that the lawman actually felt as if someone was hearing his cries, since for the past two years, he said, he had visited every polyclinic on the island pleading for help against the illegal dumper.
“This guy doesn’t want to pay the tipping fee, so when he goes and works, he brings all the garbage and dumps in the gully. He would burn the garbage every week. All the stuff that he collects, he would come and light it and he has down here smoked out. The last time he had an old bed and all sorts of things dumped in there.
“I went to every polyclinic in Barbados to complain. I even went out Culloden Road at the Environmental Protection Department and I talked with the officers there. I didn’t use to call; I used to go in person. The whole of 2016 and the whole of 2017 I was complaining about this situation. I went to the polyclinic in Warrens several times, and don’t care whom I complained to, there was no sort of action.”
Austin recalled that when he moved to the area close to the gully back in the 1990s, he thoroughly cleaned the gully, removing bags of garbage.
“This man’s bringing us back to the ’70s and ’80s when people used to dump in the gully,” he lamented.
He was hopeful that the health inspector who visited the area on Wednesday and saw the fire first-hand, would take the necessary steps to nip this problem in the bud.
“She was very understanding. Before I came across her, it didn’t make sense complaining because nobody was listening.”
A visit to Claybury revealed the damning evidence – a large, blackened patch at the top of the gully which was still smoking from the day before.
Austin said this smoke usually lingered for about two weeks and sometimes fire erupted again. In addition, there were still several bags of unburnt garbage lodged between the trees in the gully.
When contacted, a health official said charges could be brought against the culprit for this illegal activity.
“He can’t be doing that. The gully is not a designated site for refuse. The majority of garbage either goes to the landfill or the metal collectors. Gullies are usually watercourses,” he said.
The official confirmed that since the introduction of the controversial tipping fee, health officials had noticed an increase in illegal dumping. He explained this was because truck drivers were collecting money from clients to pay the fee, but instead of purchasing tickets to dump at the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre site in Vaucluse, St Thomas, they were pocketing it and dumping the garbage in gullies and other secluded areas. (MB)