Christmas simply was not the same this year for residents of one St Michael community, who said that instead of the traditional smell of ham and turkey, they had to put up with a nasty stench coming from an illegal dump site, which is located not far from their homes.
Although the problem of illegal dumping is nothing new for residents of Robinson Close, St Stephen’s Hill, they said the situation went from bad to worse after Government’s imposition of a $25 tipping fee for legal waste disposal back in May.
However, what has been even more unbearable over the past two weeks has been an awful stench, which is said to be the by-product of a new practice by truckers of dumping loads of a thick black substance, believed to be molasses, into the area.
A team from Barbados TODAY was summoned to the area this morning by a visibly upset and vocal Janice Ward who said she was now at her wits end, having complained on numerous occasions to the health and sanitation authorities, but to no avail.
“The dumping of household items was going on for a little while and the Ministry of Health had to come in and chained there [the dump site], the chain [was taken] down and it intensified when the tipping fee was implemented.
“Down in there became a dumping ground and they have now escalated it to what is down in there. I understand it is molasses,” she said.
Ward, who has been resident in the area for the past 25 years, complained that she was now battling with a swarm of “big flies” around her home. She also expressed fears that the illegal dumping, which usually started as early as 7 a.m. and continued throughout the day, would cause health problems for her family and neighbours.
“This is a health hazard,” she insisted, pointing out that a school and water reservoir were in close proximity.
On Christmas Day, the residents called in the police when they realized the dumping of the sludge was still taking place. Ward said the officers came and for a while the dumping had stopped.
However, “from the time the police left, they came back. So somebody would have been communicating with whoever have it going on,” she insisted, adding that she felt “insulted and abused” by those responsible for the illegal dumping, who she believed should be brought to justice.
“We want them prosecuted because they don’t have any right doing this . . . look at down in here . . . It will continue as long as we don’t get this stopped. Look what the hell this has escalated to,” she lamented.
Other residents who spoke to Barbados TODAY said they sent signed letters to the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Health, and their Member of Parliament Chris Sinckler.
However, theirs continue to be an unending misery.
“We have no voice. Nobody in authority pay us any attention. We are the lone voices crying in the wilderness and we are the ones being affected and nobody cares . . . We have tried all avenues and we have been to all the departments that we think would be responsible that we think we could help get from and nothing has been forth coming,” Ward lamented.
Another resident, Leroy Robinson, also said that the perpetrators should be made to pay.
“It isn’t the bare scent of molasses. It is a funny scent. I have to close my windows and doors,” he told Barbados TODAY, adding that this was not the first time he had complained about the dumping in the area.
Clem Broome said he believed the practice was already affecting people’s health, pointing out that some residents had experienced respiratory and other challenges in recent times.
“What I find very appalling is that we have residents living here and something of this nature and magnitude, actually dumping things, and neighbours are not informed what you are dumping . . . they just dump it,” said Broome, who has also lived in the area for the past 25 years.
“And apart from dumping it just kicks up a lot of dust,” he said.
Early in the interview one truck, believed to be carrying some of the sludge, came to the area but stopped along the track after spotting our photographer.
About ten minutes later two more trucks and a skip arrived but by then our news team was at the site with the residents.
Upon spotting us, the driver of the trucks turned off into a nearby spot and the drivers were nowhere to be seen when we approached.
Barbados TODAY has since learnt that the molasses disposal at the site of the old Roger’s Quarry at St Stephen’s Hill, was being carried out by Williams Tool & Equipment.
And when contacted this evening, owner Troy Williams said his construction firm was engaged in the business of mixing material for agricultural purposes.
“It is an open space where we have our dirt and so forth. So we are mixing material with that dirt,” he said in a brief comment.
In an equally brief response, Minister of Health John Boyce said health inspectors in the Vector Control Unit would be the ones to deal with the situation.
Barbados TODAY also contacted St Michael North West MP Chris Sinckler, who is currently off island. He said he was caught unawares by the recent developments.
However, Sinckler explained that while residents had previously complained to him about the heavy duty equipment being operated in the area, he was not aware about the molasses dumping, since, as far as he knew, Roger’s Quarry has been out of operation for some time.
Therefore, “for anybody to be dumping there, you have to have Town Planning permission, or certainly the regulatory authorities, including the SSA [Sanitation Service Authority], the EPD [Environmental Protection Department], all of those would have to be involved.
“If such permission has not been sought, then it has to be an illegal operation and would have to be stopped immediately,” he added.
Sinckler, who is this country’s Minister of Finance, further suggested that in the absence of “appropriate consultation”, given the dump’s proximity to residences and the University of the West Indies, Williams, who also lives in the area, would have to cease and desist and the necessary cleanup ordered.