Three days of continuous ash and smoke have taken a toll on dozens living downwind of the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC).
After enduring two major fires in three months, residents of Arch Hall and Bennetts, St Thomas are demanding a greater level of care and consideration from both private and public sector entities operating landfills nearby.
Barbados TODAY spoke with numerous red-eyed residents, many of whom were reluctant to open their doors, fearing further smoke inhalation would cause their chest pains and runny noses to worsen.
Pierre Edwards, a middle-aged man who said he had no history of respiratory problems said the smoke had been “making a mess” of him.
“I never was an asthmatic, but right now my nose is dripping and I am not working at the moment. So I have just been trying to cover my nose and try the best to sleep. I sleep in the front bedroom and all of the smoke is coming through that window,” Edwards complained.
For some, he predicted the issues could become life threatening in the long-term, even if the immediate impact did not appear serious.
“It’s terrible and they [authorities] say nothing can be done. So will you have to ask the residents of Arch Hall to move out? This will end up taking lives, because it’s like second-hand smoke, but more dangerous. One time it’s tires, another time it’s plastic and you never know what’s in there.
“We’re trying to hang in there and hoping Government will do something to help us. It’s happening too often. Three months apart is very close and they need to get something done very soon,” he demanded.
Clouds of thick black smoke covered the community in mid-February, when hundreds of tires burned at the nearby, Government-run Mangrove Landfill.
Nafesa Holder, who lives with her husband Whitfield Holder in Arch Hall, said the situation was “not too bad”, when compared with February’s fire. She however expressed concern about the wellbeing of her five-year old son, an asthmatic who was reacting negatively to the smoke.
“I had to give him the inhaler and he normally doesn’t like it, but I had to do it. He went to school today, but I wonder if the teacher will call me, because he wasn’t feeling well.
“Months ago, the tires were burning and everything was a mess and now again there’s this smoke and your eyes are burning, your nose is burning. I don’t know if they can do anything about it,” she said.
Tamara Clarke who lives and works in Bennetts said since Wednesday, she had been forced to close The Estate Bar and an adjoining snack shop due to the conditions.
“It really puts a damper on business, because people usually come out during the daytime,” she explained.
“There are also asthmatics living here. I am an asthmatic and this has been very bad. I didn’t have to go to the hospital or anything, but my sinuses are affected and I am losing my voice. The last fire was worse, but I would really like these dumps to be moved, because they cannot allow this to affect us all the time like this.”
Charles Trotman, another Arch Hall resident said while the situation had improved tremendously over the past three days, he wanted a more urgent response from authorities.
“There does not seem to be a concerted effort to remedy this situation because obviously the smoke affects people who don’t live in this area who have to pass through. Something must be done about it and if there are persons in authority that can answer this problem, surely they should.
“I am home all day and no one comes by and says anything. I can’t say that they did or didn’t, but I have not seen anyone,” said Trotman.