The incinerator at Pockwood Pond has been non-operational since it was damaged by a fire in February 2022, despite previous government promises to fix it within a few months. (File photo: PROVIDED)

The trash incinerator at Pockwood Pond is expected to be operational again by the end of the year, Department of Waste Management Director Marcus Solomon said during a community meeting last week in West End.

For many residents, the fix can’t come soon enough.

Ever since the facility was damaged by a fire on Feb. 14, 2022, Tortola’s trash has been buried in an adjacent hillside landfill that frequently catches fire and sends noxious smoke over West End.

“We don’t even know what the long-term health repercussions will be for inhaling carcinogens or whatever chemicals may be burning,” said West End resident Aiden Abednego. “I hope a solution can be achieved.”

Mr. Abednego, who suffers from congestion and allergies that make it difficult to sleep at night, told the Beacon that the smoke also reduces his outdoor exercise time.

“My electricity bill has gone up,” he added. “I have to use more fans, a dehumidifier, and air conditioning.”

As residents suffer, the incinerator repairs have been delayed repeatedly.

At the time of the February 2022 fire, then-Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone said the facility would likely be offline for two to four months. The DWM later upped that estimate to seven months, a target that passed last September.

The topic was among the most-discussed issues at an Aug. 29 community meeting hosted by First District Representative Dr. Karl Dawson at the West End Community Centre.

Also on the agenda were related plans for recycling initiatives, as well as the new West End ferry terminal project.

‘Uncontrolled disposal’

Mr. Solomon started his presentation with a candid assessment of the territory’s current waste management system, which he said has reached “uncontrolled disposal” status.

“There’s a lot of health impacts around [uncontrolled disposal],” said Mr. Solomon, whose appointment as DWM director was announced in July.

“That’s what we have: an uncontrolled dumpsite. There’s a lot of consequences around that.”

The department plans to transition the existing Pockwood Pond dump to a “controlled” landfill that will have better record-keeping, tighter security, fewer health risks, better trash management, and other improvements, according to the director. Once the landfill achieves that status, he said, the risk of spontaneous combustion will be greatly reduced.

Green VI partnership

As part of efforts to reform the VI’s waste management system, the DWM is partnering with the non-profit organisation Green VI and other local recyclers to sort and better manage waste, he said.

Later in the meeting, Green VI Deputy Director Sarah Penney took the podium to explain how they plan to make that happen.

West End ferry terminal

The meeting also included a presentation on the planned West End ferry terminal.

Sergio Dantas, a contract supervisor at the Recovery and Development Agency, explained the updated plans for the facility and outlined the steps to its completion. The new terminal will be able to process 200 passengers per hour and accommodate three ferries (two international and one domestic) at once, Mr. Dantas said.

He added that it will be able to process 20 daily ferry clearances (15 international and five domestic), and that it will include VIP, retail and concession areas.

Already, he said, the terminal drawings have been submitted to the Town and Country Planning Department for approval, and the deadline for the second round of bidder prequalification closed last Thursday.

Next, the RDA will evaluate the prequalification submissions over about two weeks before sharing tender documents with prequalified companies, according to Mr. Dantas.

After that, the companies will prepare their bids over an estimated six weeks.

The RDA will evaluate the bids in about three weeks and then award the contract, he said.

Under this projected timeline, construction is likely to commence no later than the first quarter of 2024, according to Mr. Dantas.

After that, he said, the construction process is expected to take about two years.

During construction, a temporary ferry dock and building will remain in operation, he added.