KINGSTON –– Residents in New Longsville, Clarendon, say they are being sickened by clouds of dust from a road rehabilitation project in the community and are demanding compensation to offset the cost of their spiralling medical bills.
The JA$1.2-billion road project — which began in September 2014 — includes alignment, realignment, widening, and paving of the roadway; construction of drains; placement of road markings; and installation of traffic control devices and signals of the corridor between Sour Sop Turn and Chapleton.
But, according to the residents who spoke with the Jamaica Observer on Monday, the project has come with a dust nuisance they did not bargain for. They said that they have been suffering immensely since the project started, with some people, especially those who live close to the roadway, having to make frequent trips to the doctor for conditions such as shortness of breath, stuffiness, persistent coughing, and sneezing.
“It’s very bad. It horrible! Mi have sinus and it a kill mi every day,” Lolita Daniels told the Observer.
“You know from when mi nuh dust! Ah jus’ because of the rain why mi do little dusting now,” she added, while pointing out that everything in her house was covered in dust. “It a sick mi bad, and mi never have this problem until the work start.”
For the residents, not enough is being done to keep the area moist, and thus the dust down.
“Dem not wetting the road often enough and by di time dem wet it, to how di sun a shine it dry inna no time,” said 76-year-old Brenda Holness, who was wearing a dust mask, which she said was done on the doctor’s orders.
Holness, whose house sits close to the roadway, disclosed that she was recently admitted in the Kingston Public Hospital for six days because of respiratory problems caused by exposure to the dust.
“Actually, from the start of the work, every month mi deh a doctor,” said the elderly wwoman who suffers from kidney, lungs and heart problems.
“It give mi short a breath; last Friday night mi couldn’t breathe and early Saturday morning mi had to go the doctor and a straight a emergency room dem send mi as mi pressure was 181/91. When di breeze blow and the car pass, it come in like a smoke,” she shared.
Holness, who further complained that the roadwork was taking too long to be completed, said the National Works Agency (NWA) — which is responsible for the project needs to control the dust and assist her and the others with their medical fees.
“Doctor bill nuh free and everytime yuh go doctor yuh have to pay so dem must give the people dem back them money. Can you imagine di people who have all three children sick? It’s really bad and when you cough and spit you can see the natural red dirt,” she complained.
The residents urged the NWA to move its “hands” a little faster.
“All inna mi house full a dust, it a spoil up everything and you haffi a dust everything,” complained Waynie Holness, who along with her daughter Monique Bailey said they, too, were being sickened by the dust.
“From dem start dem a wet, but it nuh mek nuh sense,” Holness said.
“They need to speed up the work; they started long time now and we don’t know what is taking so long and there is no one we can complain to,” added Bailey.
On Monday, Stephen Shaw, the NWA’s communication and customer service manager, said that the agency was aware of the challenges that the residents were experiencing.
“We have impressed on our contractors to do what is necessary to minimise the discomfort,” he told the Observer.
Shaw also acknowledged that the work had been going on for a long while, but indicated that they will be pressing forward soon with the application of the top coat of asphalt, which will significantly reduce the dust problem.
However, as it relates to compensation, he disclosed that he had not seen any claim from affected residents or was aware of any being submitted to the legal department which would be responsible for such matters.