St. Maarten Residents call for action to solve dump problemsPOSTED: 04/20/16 5:01 PM
Minister Emil Lee (second from right) listens to the concerns about the landfill. To the left is Andy Wescot; Wycliffe Smith of the Christian party is just visible next to him. Photo contributed
St. Maarten News – Despite the slight drizzle, several concerned residents gathered on Monday morning at Clem Labega Square in front of the Government Administration Building where they signed an official letter requesting the Council of Ministers to urgently deal with the sanitary landfill (aka the dump) problem.
In the meantime, the letter has been submitted to government through its General Affairs department and copies have been delivered to the Governor’s office and the office of the Ombudsman.
Minister Emil Lee (Public Health) came out to hear the concerned residents which included members of new parties Benjamin Ortega, Pastor Wycliffe Smith and René Wilson.
Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams also made a brief appearance and her son Andy was also in attendance and a signatory to the letter submitted.
An on-line petition has been created to give the public the opportunity to sign on as concerned residents also looking for a solution to the “Sanitary Landfill problem”. The petition can be signed at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/the-dump-problem
In their letter to the Council of Ministers, the concerned residents point out that the sanitary landfill on Pond Island has reached its economic lifespan several years ago. This has been confirmed by previous ministers in parliament meetings. Despite this fact, garbage continues to be dumped on this area over exceeding the limitations of the site.
“The landfill can be seen smoldering (because it’s ‘burning’ below the top surface) on most days of the year and by doing so the toxic smoke it emits is a health hazard to both residents and visitors of St. Maarten on a continual basis, not only when big fires erupt like the one of last Friday,” the letter states.
The authors say that the toxic smoke emitted by the landfill is not only affecting residents ‘down-wind’ of the immediate surroundings of the site. It can also be smelled many miles away and during large fires even as far as over the hill in the Cole Bay and Simpson Bay area. “The conclusion is that the Sanitary Landfill is affecting the health of residents in many districts of St. Maarten.”
Not only has the landfill become a health hazard for residents and visitors, it has also become “a very large hill of undocumented garbage in the center of a densely populated Philipsburg area,” the authors state. “The constant threat of possible large explosions with extensive collateral damage which cannot be ruled out is a public safety issue. There is no actual record of what materials have been dumped and their respective volumes.”
The authors furthermore point out that the landfill’s location is not ideal and that it goes against the Constitution. They refer to Article 21 (“the Government shall take steps to promote public health”) and Article 22 (“It shall be the constant concern of the government to keep the country habitable and to protect and improve the natural environment and the welfare of animals”). Government’s failure to properly resolve the situation at the landfill is in breach of the Constitution, because with every day, and with every fire, the country becomes more uninhabitable, the authors point out.
They call on the government to make the issue a priority at the next Council of Ministers meeting and to set a deadline for the solution of the problem. The authors also want the government to issue an instruction, including a deadline for project completion, to the relevant departments to execute the project that tackles the landfill problem.