As the Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill continues to burn, a garbage crisis has developed in the city.
Town Clerk Royston King told Stabroek News yesterday that the city has been forced to open a temporary waste disposal site in Le Repentir Cemetery.
The fire which began at the Haags Bosch site on Sunday December 20 saw the site being shut down and garbage trucks being redirected to a landfill at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. However, last weekend reports revealed that city contractors were dumping in the vicinity of Le Repentir Cemetery. That area previously housed the Le Repentir Landfill, the use of which was discontinued when the Haags Bosch site became operational in 2010.
Yesterday City Hall confirmed that the area is being used as a temporary waste disposal site. According to Solid Waste Director Walter Narine it is expected to hold waste from the large skip bins around the city as well as from the large market bins.
“The 10 wards and markets of Georgetown generate approximately 85 tonnes of waste daily but we are not disposing of all of that there. We are only disposing of refuse from the large skip bins and large market bins,” Narine explained.
However, when Stabroek News visited the site, there was evidence of all kinds of refuse being dumped there. There were also trucks with refuse from as far as the West Coast Demerara, dumping waste in what is a relatively small space.
A hole had been dug for the garbage and machinery was being used to spread and compact the waste, which is expected to be covered once the use of the area is discontinued.
Drivers of the five garbage trucks Stabroek News encountered said that because of the rain the road to the Lusignan Landfill has become impassable. This, they said, forced them to use Le Repentir.
When asked to comment on this, Narine admitted that the road has indeed become impassable and stated that the dumpsite was not equipped to deal with the volume of garbage being generated.
“Five trucks broke down on that road in one day. Two from Cevon’s Waste Management, two from Puran Brothers and one from City Hall plus they don’t have space,” he said adding that it is difficult for the city to manage how some trucks dispose of their load.
“Haags Busch generally handles garbage from Georgetown, the East Bank and the East Coast. If a man come with a truck from all the way at Soesdyke and you tell him that he now has to travel to Lusignan chances are he gonna dump it on some road corner somewhere in the city which will create more work for me,” Narine said. Narine believes that this problem has been created in part by poor management of the Haags Busch Landfill.
“Landfill fires are not unusual and they don’t go out quickly because there is a lot of fuel such as methane created by the decomposing of the waste. Look how long Mandela close down and it still smoking. A fire in one cell shouldn’t cause the entire landfill to close. Haags Bosch has several other cells which could be opened to relieve this crisis but the contractor doesn’t want to do that,” he said.
It was previously reported that the Haags Bosch facility is designed to have four cells, each with a life-span of 10 years, to cater for 250 tonnes of waste per day. In 2012, it was reported that the facility was in fact receiving an average of 350 tonnes of waste on a daily basis. This reality is expected to severely limit the lifespan of each cell.
Site Manager at Haags Bosch explained to Stabroek News that there is only one cell that is operation.
“The landfill was designed to eventually accommodate four cells. However, the contractor, BK International has to develop and operate cell one. This cell is 350m x185m and it is expected to last for a minimum of seven years. We are in our fifth year of operation,” Stanton stated.
Stanton also explained that landfills fires are not unusual.
“They happen regularly because of biological activity such as decomposition which generates heat. This activity plus readily available fuel that is landfill waste makes the site combustible. The most we can do is prevent oxygen from getting to the areas and work to efficiently douse any fires which may develop. It’s not anyone’s fault that a fire started,” he said.
Stanton however agrees that the present fire was not efficiently managed.
“If the fire service had worked around the clock it would’ve been out already,” he said.
He explained that the fire service was called when the fire started and while firefighters showed up and attempted to douse the pile that was ablaze they were inconsistent with their efforts which led to the fire lasting much longer than it should.
“At that time about quarter of the pile was ablaze. They doused it and left and the next day the entire pile was on fire. They seem to be working only regular hours 9-4 or sometimes when they feel like. Now we are using some of our own machinery without assistance of the fire service and the pile is about 60-70% out. We hope to have it completely extinguished by the end of the week so that the site can be re-opened by this weekend,” Stanton said.
According to Stanton, the fire service has not returned to the site since 5 pm on Saturday, despite promises to do so. When Stabroek News visited the site around 4 pm yesterday, there was thick smoke emanating for the area. Repeated efforts to contact Fire Chief Marlon Gentle for a comment on the situation proved futile.
Better waste disposal
Meanwhile, Narine is concerned about the future. He explained that because of the danger of fire a landfill is expected to be equipped with a fire tender and other firefighting equipment but Haags Bosch has none.
He also would like to see changes in the way the city collects and disposes of garbage. Efforts are being made to switch the city’s garbage collection schedule to between 6 pm and 5 am and to have a holding site established within the city.
“Haags Bosch operates from 7 am to 5 pm and lots of businesses close at 5.30 so you have that waste all over the city throughout the night and the garbage trucks competing with other traffic during the day. This is not efficient,” Narine said. He added that if a holding site is established the refuse can be collected during the night, stored at the holding site and transported to Haags Bosch during the day for less congestion and delay.
In the meantime, residents of the areas surrounding Le Repentir cemetery are being asked to be patient with the city.
“We didn’t create this situation and we are trying our best to deal with it. I don’t foresee us using that area for more than a week more, but after two weeks with no disposal site we are getting desperate,” Narine said. He added that he doesn’t expect the Haags Bosch fire to be extinguished by this weekend and since there is no empty land in the city he is not sure how the council will proceed.
A meeting has been set with Minster of Communities Ronald Bulkan for today to make him aware of the city’s plight. “We will meet with Bulkan and he will brief cabinet and we will hopefully have some sort of solution,” Narine said.