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Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, has informed that emergency personnel at the Riverton City landfill and disposal site, in Kingston, will continue to carry out mitigation measures at the facility.

“The stipulated timeline of 72 hours for the fire fighting and smoke containment operations were met. We are currently in the second phase of smoke abatement and all indications are that the current pace of smoke abatement process could be completed before the specified date of Friday, February 17, 2012,” Mr. Arscott said.

The Minister was giving an update on the Riverton Landfill and disposal site fire, during the sitting of the House of Representatives on February 14.

A section of the approximately 100-acre Riverton landfill and disposal site was the scene of a fire at about 7:00 p.m. on Monday night, February 6, the cause of which has been determined to be that of natural landfill combustion.

Mr. Arscott also informed that so far it has cost the Government an estimated $25 million to put the necessary measures in place to get the fire under control.

“We expect the final cost to be within the original estimated budget of $60 million,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arscott said as part of mitigation strategies,  several measures will be implemented at the landfill, including: covering of all areas with marl or suitable material; segmenting  tipping area into smaller usable sections; covering area after use; securing stockpile of cover material in the event of an emergency; procuring proper personal protective equipment, such as respirators; rebuilding tipping areas; cleaning drains and rehabilitating roadways; diversifying waste management operations, including recycling, waste separation, waste exporting or waste to energy projects; and locating alternative site or relocating residents (formal and informal) from the area to expand the current location.

“I want to assure everyone that while we cannot prevent a recurrence, as normal combustion will take place from time to time, the Ministry is moving with alacrity to identify cost effective and efficient measures to minimise this recurrence. The technical team will continue to meet to access and explore options, feasible studies and proposals that have been offered to us to address this situation,” Mr. Arscott said.

In his remarks, Opposition Spokesperson on Local Government, Desmond McKenzie, urged the government to start paying more attention to waste recycling and re-use, as well as producing compost for agriculture.

For his part, Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North Western, Derrick Smith, queried whether citizens living in nearby communities will be compensated for medical expenses incurred as a result of the fire at the landfill.

In his response, Mr. Arscott said: “We have not received any report and if the reports are received, I am sure they will be dealt with on a case by case basis.”      

By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter