Photos and interviews
by Sara Bharrat

This week we asked the residents of Princes Street  how the nearby dump site is affecting them.

Pamela Harry, businesswoman:
‘It’s very annoying and the stench is terrible. Sometimes in the night when you’re in the house it’s like you’re suffocating. The smoke forces you to lock up your doors and windows but still it forces its way through the vents and creases of the house. Not everyone can afford to buy a fan and sometimes the fan doesn’t even work to blow the smoke away. The smoke from the dump is also affecting our health; many people are having trouble breathing and the children are suffering from skin infections. I have lived here for over twenty years and at first the stench from the dump used to bother me but now the smoke does as well. In fact in all those years this is the worst the dump has ever been. Some sort of a medical team was here on Friday and they told us that we should seek help at the Georgetown Public Hospital or a health centre. They didn’t give us a referral letter or anything like that and I won’t show up at the hospital because I will have to spend most of the day there.’

Godfrey Sills, self-employed:
‘I fed-up with the stench coming from that dump. This time around is the worst it has ever been. I think that the gases are so much beneath the dump now it can never get good. I think that it is time now that the Princes Street dump is closed down. I remember that some time ago it was supposed to be moved to Eccles. It is clear that the dump can’t hold anymore waste so I don’t know why they’re trying to stuff it with more. Once the breeze is blowing we’re alright but when it changes direction or stops it’s then that we get the full impact of the smoke. This thing is dangerous and unhealthy and it will start killing people. I think that is when the relevant authorities will react properly to the situation. They just keep promising to do and do and the situation keeps stretching and stretch and it has finally reached its limit. I notice that they are trying to grade down the heap and soak it with water but that won’t help for long.’

Michelle Kippines,
‘The dump should be removed from here. As a result of constantly inhaling the smoke my children now suffer from coughs and itches about the body. The smell is extremely terrible. At one point some residents were talking about forming a group to go stop the people from throwing garbage at the dump but nothing came of it. I had to take my children to the hospital as well and it costs me money. We were advised that we should go to the Georgetown Public Hospital or a nearby health centre. I will chance the health centre. We were also advised to move with our children. It’s not like they have somewhere to put us so I don’t know where they want us to move to. I don’t think any resident should move; the dump is what needs to be moved.’

Elizabeth Cumberbatch,
private sector employee:
‘This time around is the worst I have experienced with this whole situation concerning the dump site. My children have become sick because of the smoke they have been inhaling and it costs money for me to get them medical attention. The smoke and stench are dangerous to everyone’s health. The dump extends from Mandela Avenue to Victor Street and it has reached its limit. They need to stop dumping their garbage here. The area is a burial ground; the garbage must stop.’
Jean Osborne, cosmetologist:
‘Minister Benn and his group have been coming here a few days now and I notice that they’re soaking the dump and grading it down. However, this is a short term remedy and after they are done it will catch afire again. I live directly opposite the area of the dump that has been causing most of the trouble and I think that I am a lot more affected than others. I feel suffocated; imagine I’m a free citizen and I can’t even take one breath of fresh air. A group sent by the government has been coming around and offering us advice. They told me that I should move out until the works were over. I just watch them. They are making no provisions for us so where will we stay. If I go anywhere else how will my children get to school? Early in the morning the entire street is thickly fogged by the smoke and this in itself is a danger to residents, especially females, who must walk there to get to work or school.’

Maxine Edward,
private sector employee:
‘No matter how we try to close and seal up our house the smoke still affecting us. The dump stinks and many of us have no where to go to escape from it. It was suggested to us that we move but where will they put us and for how long? I have my children to consider. Health wise the smoke from the dump has greatly affected my family. I had to rush my one-month-old baby boy to the doctor a few days ago and he was given oxygen. The doctor explained to me that it was the constant inhaling of the smoke filled air that affected my baby’s breathing. Further, in the morning it is really foggy and you can hardly see where you’re walking. There are women and children who must get to school and when they’re walking along in this smoke filled air they can easily be attacked and by the time they get where they are going they literally stink of smoke.’

Celeste Barker,
private sector employee:
‘Although my house is behind another I am still affected by the smoke from the dump. My house and yard often have so much smoke that you think there is a fire close by. This is the first time I am being affected by the smoke. I can’t even open my windows and doors because of the smoke. This makes my house get heated inside. It’s so hot in there that I feel as if I’m going through menopause. People who have heart and breathing related illnesses are put at risk as well because the smoke makes it difficult for them to breathe. This smoke is a sure way to shorten our life spans.’

Pamela Singh, seamstress:
‘All this smoke and bad smell from the dump has affected my breathing and gives a steady headache which over-the-counter medications aren’t curing. If I am forced to go to the doctor then that means I have to take money out of my pocket. I am happy that some effort is being made to improve the situation but I think that they can and must do more. The overuse of this dump has resulted in us suffering now. Negligence is the cause of this problem. I think that we should be offered free health services and that a medical team should be stationed specially in the area. Imagine when I wash my clothes there is no where outside to hang it because the smoke makes them discoloured and it smells. Everything in my house down to my mosquito net has been damaged by the excessive smoke coming from the dump.’

Theresa Knights,
‘The smoke has given me a dry cough and the unhealthy particles being transported in the air has caused my daughter to contract typhoid. I am so frustrated that I don’t know what to think. I know I am not the only person feeling this way. Something definitely needs to be done about this situation. It’s making us sick and destroying our homes.’
Omar Sampson, miner:
‘I already have trouble with my eyes and the smoke from the dump is only adding to it. It burns my nose and a breath of fresh air is not something I can get in my house either. I have my wife at home and she has also become sick because of this whole situation. I had suggested to Minister Benn that he bring in an excavator and have the men soak the heaps with water while grading it down. I am quite pleased that they have put the idea into action but I’m not sure it will be enough. The minister and his men have been attending to the dump a few days now but they only work for 3 or 4 hours every day.’

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