The government plans to distribute facemasks and to reduce the smoke coming from the Pockwood Pond landfill, but the parts needed to repair the non-functional incinerator there still have not been obtained, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone disclosed during a statement issued Monday.
The incinerator has been down since it was gutted by a fire on Nov. 26, and the trash being landfilled in the mountainside behind the facility frequently catches fire, sending smoke wafting over West End and as far away as St. John and St. Thomas.
Both the current and former governments have promised to repair the facility by sourcing a replacement control panel from the Virginia-based company that built the incinerator, Consutech Systems LLC. Most recently, Cabinet decided in April to waive the competitive tender process for the purchase of the panel in order to quickly award a $161,300 contract to Consutech.
On Monday, Mr. Malone gave a progress report, saying that government plans to finalise a contract with the company for the “purchase and certification of the installation” of the part by October. Government will also issue an “electrical contract for the installation of the control panel and the comprehensive rewiring of the plant,” Mr. Malone said.
He did not, however, provide a projected date for the installation or say when he expects the incinerator to be operational again.
In the meantime, though, he said various steps will be taken to mitigate residents’ discomfort.
Additional personnel will be contracted to “coordinate the landfill operations to ensure proper placement and efficient covering of waste to reduce the occurrence of spontaneous combustion,” according to the minister.
Additionally, government will distribute carbon filter masks to affected residents, and commence air quality monitoring designed to keep community members informed about the dangers they might face.
“It must be emphasised that as we take immediate steps to correct the emergency situation, the vexing and broader issue of sustainable integrated solid waste management can no longer be kicked down the road,” Mr. Malone said. “It must be addressed with the power of now.”
To that end, the minister explained, the government has engaged the consultancy services of the Switzerland-based Agency for Resilience, Empowerment and Development to formulate short-, medium- and long-term initiatives in three areas: legislation, regulations and policies; “organisation restructure;” and infrastructure development.
“It is imperative that as a territory each of us must fully embrace the concepts of reduce, reuse and recycle,” he said. “New legislations will seek to reduce the importation of environmentally damaging materials and products by placing bans on Styrofoam and single-use plastics.”
He added that recycling systems will be implemented as well.
“With all measurers in place it is calculated that the territory would be able to reduce the production of waste materials by some 80 percent from its current level of 1,200 tons daily,” he said. “We will seek to complete the waste management study that has been empowered and we will be reporting to you in very short order.”
Mr. Malone did not mention the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Strategy that was tabled in the House of Assembly in 2014.
That document, which was drafted by the Trinidad-based consultant Egarr & Associates, included various recommendations for the way forward, few of which were followed.
The consultant, for example, recommended establishing a facility where trash can be sorted for recycling and reuse; establishing a dedicated legislative framework for solid waste management; and commissioning a study on waste-to-energy strategies, among others.
Mr. Malone also did not mention the pollution-control scrubber that officials have been promising to add to the incinerator for more than a decade.
For at least four years, according to ministry officials, the territory has been waiting for Consutech to supply the device, which would remove harmful particulates and gaseous pollutants from emissions.
Although government signed a $1 million contract with Consutech in 2015 to create the scrubber and has already paid the company a $500,000 deposit, the device has not been delivered.