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Environment and Water Resources Minister Ganga Singh says Sunday’s fire at the Beetham landfill was deliberately set. He said that in a brief interview with reporters during yesterday’s teabreak in the Senate sitting. Fire was seen at the landfill shortly after 3 pm on Sunday, despite increased security following several simultaneous fires there in January.
“My understanding is that once more the fires were deliberately set,” he insisted, without elaborating on evidence to support the claim, and stressed that such a situation could not be allowed to continue. Singh again said there must be “a different management system at the landfill site.There is too much of a laissez-faire approach taken there.”
He said it was the responsibility of the Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL) “to do things quite differently,” and pointed out there were significant security issues associated with the people who scavenge for a living on the site. He said the Environmental Management Authority had done air pollution tests and results showed that “there were no levels of pollutants that could impact negatively on people.
At the dump site yesterday there were small pockets where fires continue to burn. The National Operations Centre (NOC) and the Solid Waste Management Company Ltd (SWMCOL) say the situation is under control. Director of the NOC Garvin Heerah said yesterday the fires were under the control and management of the Fire Services and SWMCOL. Despite assurances from both Heerah and SWMCOL communications manager George Elias, thick smoke blew into Port-of-Spain several times during the day yesterday.
Heerah said the agencies working together on the Beetham landfill fires had not yet determined the cause but were assessing a variety of dynamics. He said a report on the security of the area and investigations into the cause of the fires should be ready on Friday. Heerah added: “The investigations are continuing and based on an inter-agency approach they will report to the NOC as we continue to monitor the situation.
“We are trying to rectify unauthorised access to the landfill to have control over unauthorised or illegal activities. “The agencies investigating are looking at combustibles that were lit. They could have been lit from an external source or from burning of metal to get copper.” Scavengers frequently try to retrieve copper and other recyclables from the waste left at the dump daily. Heerah said investigating agents had discovered naked flames that were lit by unauthorised individuals.
He said the NOC was taking the lead on joint discussions to assess the risk, threat and vulnerability of the Beetham landfill.
SWMCOL: Progress against fire
In a release yesterday, Elias said significant progress had been made with respect to the fires which were first detected last Sunday. “At present, work continues apace and the blaze is expected to be fully extinguished over the next 12 to 18 hours,” Elias wrote. He said the on-site team had reported little to zero chance of re-ignition or spread beyond the area affected. While Elias had previously said the landfill would reopen today, the release said it would remain closed to the general public until further notice.