Sabotage! That’s the reaction of Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) Audley Gordon to the series of fires at the Retirement landfill (dump) in St James.
Between December and the current month of January, the NSWMA and the Montego Bay Fire Brigade have had to put out at least four fires at the landfill, each set between late night and early morning.
“Is somebody lighting the dump,” asserted Mr. Gordon in an interview adding, “we have to find out who doing this!” While maintaining that it is sabotage and that whoever is doing it “have some motive,” Mr. Gordon said he did not wish to speculate any further.
Addressing the issue Saturday night at an East Central St. James fundraising dinner at the Half Moon Hotel, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said “I’ve given strict directive to the management of the NSWMA here that they must engage the security forces to conduct certain operations to interdict those who are deliberately setting the dump on fire, and I’m expecting that we will have some result in that regard.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Gordon said he has had dialogue with Members of Parliament Edmund Bartlett and Marlene Malahoo Forte, both of whom have expressed their concern to him, “and I said to them we have to rally our community people to try and find out who is behind this.”
Fires at the facility have been a recurring decimal for years. On January 2, 2016, following two fires at the waste disposal site over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, then Minister of Local Government, Noel Arscott shared similar thoughts, saying “immediate steps will be taken to secure the Retirement Landfill in St. James from any further illegal activity,”
The plan then was to restrict the number of unauthorised persons visiting the site and “to gradually put in place tighter security management of this landfill,” said Mr. Arscott.
Seven years later, however, security remains inadequate. “We don’t have fencing around the disposal site; we don’t have the kind of lights and so on and with this sabotage we have to deal with the problem as quickly as possible,” declared Mr. Gordon. “We do have security but where the security is positioned we don’t have light.”
He said he had asked the local community people, through the MP, to assist in policing the property and identify the saboteurs. The Retirement disposal site spans approximately 60 acres, of which 40 acres is in active use. The other 20 acres are taken up with either bush, roadway or drains, with a few holding ponds for leachate at the back of the site.
Mr. Gordon’s belief that the fires are acts of sabotage is supported by the fact that the fire just before Christmas 2022 was lit “at a hard to reach disposal area of the facility at 11:00 in the night!” The most recent fire was lit at 2:00 a.m. at another section, about half a mile from posted security personnel, without lights and difficult to access. Mr Gordon concedes that there are no security cameras “and to light that place properly would be a little beyond our ability.’