“#RivertonSmokeEnBlanc”

Aerial view of Riverton City dump on fire. Photo credit: William Mahfood (@williamswisynco)
Aerial view of Riverton City dump on fire. Photo credit: William Mahfood (@Williamwisynco)

#RivertonSmokeEnBlanc is an annual event during which Kingston and St. Andrew is blanketed by thick clouds of smoke resulting from fires at the Riverton City dump landfill.

“Landfill”.

Yes, it is an annual event. This blog post is a walk down memory lane to previous “stagings” of this event. It boggles the mind that, although this is something that occurs EVERY SINGLE YEAR, there doesn’t appear to be a plan in existence to even begin to mitigate against its recurrence.

2004

“THE NATIONAL Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) advised the public yesterday that scheduled collection services have been disrupted and will continue to be affected as a result of a fire and continued protests at the Riverton disposal site.

At a press conference at the NSWMA’s Half-Way Tree Road office, Alston Stewart, executive chairman of the Authority, said the protests were hampering the work of the NSWMA.

“Access to the site has been hampered by the Riverton Mea-dows Trucking and Disposal Co-operative Society. In addition, on Wednesday, a section of the landfill was set ablaze by unknown persons, also severely affecting operations at the site,” Mr. Stewart said.

When The Gleaner visited the site, the protesters from the Co-operative were adamant that no trucks would be allowed to enter the landfill as they wanted a meeting with the Prime Minister or Portia Simpson Miller, Minister of Local Government.” – Jamaica Gleaner, August 27, 2004

*****

“Thursday’s fire was not the first to burn during a dispute. In September 2003 thousands of tyres were set on fire at the landfill.” – Jamaica Gleaner, August 31, 2004

2005

“FOR DAYS now the Riverton City dump has been burning. The smoke has become more than a nuisance and is now affecting the health of residents around the area, in Portmore, Plantation Heights, Queen and Forest hills.

While we understand that the dump is often lit by vandals, we are left wondering how and why nothing more permanent has been done to curtail this situation? Or why the response of the Solid Waste Management Authority has been so slow and lackadaisical.

Citizens are becoming ill. They will have to pay repeatedly for doctor bills and medications to get past this latest burning, which by far is the worst. There are schools in the area. There are businesses in the area. What is to be done about the Riverton dump? Too many are affected for this situation to be left untended.

What is happening with our attorneys? Why has none of them offered to take up the case of the residents who are being sickened by the gray smoke and who, adding insult to injury, have to stand the cost for themselves? Will none of our attorneys look to represent and collect off settlement? Who else can we turn to? Who is to take up this case of wanton disregard and abuse on the citizen’s health? What about the Ministry of Health? The environmental agencies? What about the costs to the public health bill over the long term? Isn’t this something of concern to a government strapped for cash?” Jamaica Gleaner Letter of the Day, April 25, 2005

(Ten years ago, people. TEN. YEARS. AGO. The conversation has not changed).

2006

Based on the caption under the photo in this Jamaica Gleaner report, there was a fire on January 5, 2006. I could not find any other news reports for 2006. However, there is this forum post.

(Note the photo in the forum thread. Recurring decimal.)

2007

…and the effects of that December 2006 fire spilled over into 2007 with this:

“Environmentalist Diana McCaulay says residents affected by the smoke from the Riverton Landfill could make a case for infringement of their constitutional rights and therefore should approach the Public Defender, Earl Witter, to determine whether they could get legal redress from the agency with responsibility for the landfill.

Ms. McCaulay, noting that the Riverton smoke situation was a human rights issue, said the affected communities should make an effort to get legal remedy.

According to the environmentalist, the National Environment and Planning Agency and the Ministry of Health have a duty to do whatever is necessary to safeguard Jamaicans against pollutants and other environmental hazards arising from the inability of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to effectively monitor and prevent fires at the landfill.

However, she said public agencies do not act against each other, hence the smoke problem at the Riverton Landfill would continue to be a serious health hazard…

“A medical practitioner at the Alma Jones Medical Complex on Hagley Park Road toldThe Gleaner that a number of persons with respiratory problems visited his office yesterday for examination as a result of the heavy smoke, which covered their communities. Stressing that it was a serious health hazard, the medical practitioner urged the authorities to address the problem as a matter of urgency.” – Jamaica Gleaner, January 3, 2007

2008

“THE National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) yesterday closed the Riverton landfill after a massive fire, believed to have been caused by the seeping of methane gas from rotting garbage, broke out at a section of the dump.

At least nine fire trucks were called in to smother the raging flames which began early Monday morning and were fanned by strong winds in the area.

“During these hotter periods, methane gas coming from underneath the garbage will ignite in sections of the dump that are not covered with dirt and sand,” explained manager of the Riverton landfill, Winston Wilson.

“We have also had some tremendous wind so that has added to the spread of the fire,” he added.

Yesterday, worried Riverton City residents said fires at the landfill had become an all too regular incident. They, however, said they had little options to deal with the problem.

“What we must do? We can’t do anything about it. Is long time this going on for and all we have to do is just watch it and do the necessary things that it don’t affect we,” said a female resident, clutching her three-month-old baby as a thick cloud of smoke from the dump hovered in the distance behind her.” – Jamaica Observer, July 9, 2008

*****

“Valuable production time was lost yesterday as some top-end businesses along Spanish Town Road in south St Andrew were forced to send employees home as thick smoke continued to rise from the Riverton City landfill.

Sections of the landfill remained under fire up to yesterday afternoon, despite efforts by the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) and the fire brigade to put out the blaze that left several sections of the Kingston Metropolitan Area blanketed in smoke.

Berger Paints, which has its main offices on Spanish Town Road, closed its offices early yesterday afternoon due the pungent fumes coming from the landfill, while other establishments were forced to send home employees due to respiratory problems triggered by the smoke from the dump.

“On my complex they had to shut down for the morning and three quarters of the staff had to be sent home due to respiratory problems. There is no operation going on,” one employee of J Wray & Nephew Ltd, which also has its main offices on Spanish Town Road, told The Gleaner.” – Jamaica Gleaner, July 10, 2008

2009

“The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) spent much of yesterday trying to control a fire at the Riverton Ciy dump. According to head of the NSWMA, Joan Gordon-Webley, the fire started shortly after midday. It engulfed sections of the rear of the dump and was still raging late into yesterday evening. Some residents of the nearby Riverton Meadows community were worried about the health risks posed by the thick smoke, while the entire area stretching back to Patrick Gardens experienced heavy smoke and soot-related inconveniences.

Gordon-Webley was unable to say definitively how the fire started, but hinted that the blaze was “very suspicious”.

“The fire started towards the back end which gave it time to burn before we could get to it,” she said. “It is also quite suspicious because we have a huge landfill and for it to start over an edge, so to speak, it is just a little bit worrying.”” – Jamaica Observer, February 3, 2009

2010

“Executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority, Joan Gordon-Webley, yesterday told The Gleaner/Power 106 newsroom that the fire and smoke nuisance at the Riverton landfill in Kingston should be under control before the city wakes up to start its workweek today.

The fire, which started last Friday, clouded neighbourhoods close by and major thoroughfares.

Gordon-Webley, however, said the smoke, which has become a regular occurrence, would soon dissipate.” – Jamaica Gleaner, February 15, 2010

2011

“The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) has reported that the fire at the Riverton landfill along Spanish Town Road in Kingston has been contained.

The fire started yesterday afternoon.

Joan Gordon-Webley, executive director of the NSWMA, said a team is now working to get the smoke under control as quickly as possible.” – Jamaica Gleaner, October 4, 2011

(I could actually just copy and paste these reports for each year.)

2012

Photo by Alexander Delapenha
Photo credit: Alexander Delapenha (taken February 10, 2012)

 

“SECTIONS OF the city and communities in Kingston 20 were yesterday covered with thick smog as noxious fumes emanated from a large fire at the Riverton landfill.

Irked by the recurring problem of fires at the landfill and the health risks and nuisance posed to residents in surrounding communities, Public Defender Earl Witter has cautioned that the matter was not only a “civil wrong”, but could attract criminal sanctions.

“Public nuisances are criminal offences at common law. If the police were to prosecute them from time to time, maybe that might get their attention and they would do better,” Witter told The Gleaner.

The public defender is advising members of the public who are affected by the noxious fumes, particularly those who have respiratory illnesses, that his office is always ready to receive complaints about the problem.” – Jamaica Gleaner, February 9, 2012

2013

“Two units from the York Park fire station in Kingston are at this moment attempting to put out a massive fire in Riverton City, St Andrew.

Several residents gathered at the scene say several homes have been engulfed in thick black smoke as a mound of scrap near the homes along the bank of the Sandy Gully in the area was set ablaze.

So far one two-bedroom board house has been damaged by the fire. The owner, Peter Davis, claims the fire which came within about 10 feet of the house, scorched his residence and destroyed its contents.

He says a section of the structure had to be torn down to retrieve some of the household items, however, he says all the items were destroyed.” – Jamaica Gleaner, October 27, 2013

2014

Photo credit: Alexander Delapenha
Photo credit: Alexander Delapenha (taken March 17, 2014)

“The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) yesterday activated its National Emergency Protocol in response to a fire at the Riverton City Solid Waste Dump.

The blaze, which began early yesterday morning and is believed to have been started by arsonists, prompted a response from the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Jamaica Defence Force and other agencies.

In an attempt to bring the blaze under control, the Jamaica Fire Brigade dispatched seven water engines with aerial ladders, foam, and tractors that were compacting dirt, while on-the-ground personnel monitored the situation.” – Jamaica Gleaner, March 17, 2014

*****

“The fire that started some six days ago at the Riverton City dump in Kingston is expected to be extinguished “very, very soon” a representative of the National Solid Waste and Emergency Management Authority (NSWMA) said Thursday afternoon.

When OBSERVER ONLINE visited Riverton several trucks were seen moving earth to the site with other heavy duty machinery shovelling and spreading the material to have the remnants of the fire fully extinguished.

“The fire and the smoke nuisance has subsided, but not fully, Director of Operations at the NSWMA Percival Stewart told OBSERVER ONLINE Thursday. “We hope to get it fully [extinguished] very, very soon.”

On Monday the NSWMA had given an undertaking to have the fire which started over the weekend extinguished by the end of the week.” – Jamaica Observer, April 24, 2014

*****

Photo credit: Alexander Delapenha
Photo credit: Alexander Delapenha (taken March 13, 2015)

And now, here we are. In 2015. Talking about the same thing.

So, whaddaya say…next year again – same time, same place?

See you then!

#THINKJamaica

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica