by Latoya Burnham
Two weeks since the B’s Recycling Centre fire, residents say they are still being affected by the aftermath.
And now they are prepared to organise a peaceful protest about the issue and are calling on Barbadians to join them in solidarity on the Saturday morning of April 20.
Incensed residents gathered at the Lester Vaughan School last night for a meeting addressed by MP Cynthia Forde and moderated by attorney-at-law Gregory Nicholls, to discuss the challenges they have been having stemming from the continued presence of the recycling centre and effects of the fire two weeks ago.
Forde told residents that the reason for the meeting was to assess what had happened, in some cases what was still happening and to examine alternatives and the way forward.
Some of the most affected residents from Reece Road noted that they had been unable to open their homes or even breathe properly for five or six years since the plant was established in their district and continued to expand.
Closest resident, Mrs Perkins rose angrily to her feet when Judy Thomas, who noted that she was speaking as a citizen and not as an emergency management head, explained that the materials that were being complained about were coming from Barbadian homes and were being accumulated to be sent elsewhere to be recycled.
Noting that she was not saying St. Thomas was the right place for this, Thomas said maybe regulation was needed with regard to where such plants could operate and how the materials were collected and stored for shipping.
Perkins, having lived opposite the centre before and since its establishment, argued that there was material being stored that she had not seen moved to be shipped in more than five years and was simply accumulating.
“I live next door to that… She is saying it shipping out and I telling her those things that burnt were there for over five years and ain’t move. That particular heap was there for five years and ain’t move.
“Look I breathing ashes right now, bathing in ashes right now, drinking ashes, everything you touch in my house is ashes. Nobody ain’t come and look at me. Nobody ain’t even come and say ‘I’m sorry, how ya faring?’ nothing at all, at all. I gine through hell there,” the elderly widow said.
Perkins’ neighbour, Evaline Hurley said she too was living in hell so close to the plant and could not even open her windows each day. She said while she was not looking to make money off anyone, she had begged the owners of B’s Recycling to pay her out so she could go live elsewhere.
“I would gladly sell him the house and go,” said the woman, who admitted having to use breathing aids at times, adding that it was hard now knowing that she could not enjoy her home with the constant noise, dust and now the ash since the fire.
There was a similar flare up over comments made by Dr. Rolerick Hinds, a previous candidate for the constituency, who told the meeting that it was not simply a matter of the dangers of B’s Recycling, but that there were businesses even in Warrens that if there was a fire would pose health issues to those downwind, and therefore the problem had to be examined from a holistic standpoint.
Resident Eudine Blackman though objected to the comparisons of what residents were currently experiencing and what “could” happen “if” a fire occurred elsewhere. She argued that it seemed St. Thomas had become a dumping ground of all of Barbados’ trash and no one seemed to care how residents were suffering.
“We can’t take it no more. Nobody cares and we are not going to take it any more,” said the Reece Road woman, who had earlier addressed questions about the air quality tests that were conducted to Department of Emergency Management head, Judy Thomas in that capacity.
She told the meeting as well that consideration also needed to be given to those downwind of the fire, where she said some effects were still being felt. She said on Good Friday, members of the church she attends in Redman’s Village were experiencing problems breathing while sitting in the top balcony inside the church over two weeks since the fire and asked for advice as to what they could do to clean the building to reduce these problems.
Two of the other most sobering impacts of the fire were related by elderly resident Oslyn Cox and security guard Andrew Bradshaw.
Cox arrived with a statement from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital concerning the medical treatment his wife had to seek due to the fire and the bill which amounted to more than $1,800. Querying how they could recoup the costs of the treatment that has fallen to them, Cox said his wife had suffered respiratory trouble and was very ill.
Bradshaw on the other hand, relayed that as a security guard for a business downwind of the fire, he was the last one out of the building, having assured that all other employees had exited and were safe.
He said following the fire he had to seek medical attention for trouble with his breathing and was told that one of his lungs was partially closed and almost collapsed. He had to be nebulised, he said, and now has to use asthma inhalers to clear his lungs.
Additionally, he said he sought medical help for tingling to his skin, which he was told was due to the chemicals present in the smoke. Bradshaw said he was still feeling the effects of the tingling and had been given advice by doctors about it, stating that he had been told it would be a while before all the chemicals were out of his system.
Other residents told of destruction of crops and animals, not being able to open their homes due to the residue still in the atmosphere, and more recently increased distress as excavation of the burnt site was now occurring which disturbed the tyres smothered in an attempt to control the fire.
The march, suggested for April 20, the residents said would be a peaceful affair and bring attention to the fact that the presence of the recycling centre in a residential area was dangerous and that something needed to be done about the way the materials earmarked for recycling were stored and safeguarded.
Forde said they would begin the process of seeking relevant permissions and would reconvene a meeting next Wednesday, April 17 at the school at 7 p.m. to further organise and discuss the next steps.
by Latoya Burnham