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Environmentalist warns: Beetham landfill smoke health risk
An environmentalist has warned the smoke coming from the Beetham landfill for several days is toxic. But the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) yesterday suggested only long-term measures to address the problem.
The EMA said management of the landfill fell under the jurisdiction of the Solid Waste Management Company Ltd (SWMCOL) which said yesterday it would issue a release today.
In a telephone interview yesterday, environmentalist Stephen Broadbridge said: “There is nothing safe about the fumes you smell coming from the Beetham.”
Broadbridge, who is one of the founders of the Trini Eco-Warriors group and a director of Papa Bois Conservation, said the thick, black smoke which could be seen blowing across the Beetham Highway contained cyanide gas and other carcinogenic (cancer-causing) pollutants.
He added: “Consider the fact that we are only inhaling this as we drive past the Beetham. The people who reside there are at serious risk. “If a study was ever conducted on the residents of the area, I imagine that their state of health would be very poor.”
Corporate communications officer for the EMA, Nicole Bachan, said the smoke and fumes from the Beetham site were of serious concern to the EMA since the inhalation of certain gases might lead to critical health-related problems.
Bachan added: “The EMA is currently in the process of finalising its air pollution rules so that it can be better positioned to effectively address pertinent matters such as these.” Before any action can be taken to stop activities at the dump, she said comprehensive air-quality testing must be done to determine whether there was any threat to human life.
Broadbridge said he found it outrageous that the protective services, as well as the EMA, were not making serious efforts to stop the fires at the dump. He said: “We do not have landfills in Trinidad, we have dumps. This is outdated and irresponsible. We need to get with the times because we are way behind the rest of the world.”
Apart from the health risks posed by the burning of plastics and aluminium cans, he said, such acts were also wasteful, since energy could be saved by recycling the items. If they could not be recycled in T&T, he said, they should be bundled and shipped to countries with established recycling operations.
He also spoke of the habit of burning tyres, an act which, he said, “will come back to haunt us” one day. Broadbridge said last year, two million tyres were disposed of in T&T, either by dumping in the ocean or by burning them.
He said toxic residue remained after tyres were burned, so by doing that people were poisoning themselves.
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