Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Audley Gordon, says the agency is ready to proceed with work on the proposed waste disposal site at Winchester in St. Thomas.
This, he informed, will replace the existing facility at Church Corner in the parish capital, Morant Bay.
Mr. Gordon told JIS News that preliminary activities, including acquisition of the targeted 12-acre property in Winchester at a cost of approximately $23 million to accommodate the new landfill, have been largely completed.
He said the preparatory engagements also included consultations with key State stakeholders, including the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), National Works Agency (NWA), Water Resources Authority (WRA), Mines and Geology Division, and the St. Thomas Municipal Corporation.
“Representatives of these entities visited the new site and found it suitable for the landfill. So, we have had the go-ahead from all the major agencies that were consulted to proceed,” the Executive Director added.
Mr. Gordon said that the NSWMA is ready to commence the project, pointing out that “once the funds have been identified and earmarked, we will move decisively”.
He advised that the project is expected to cost approximately $267.9 million, adding that the budget was submitted to the Authority’s parent Ministry, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, for approval.
“We have already communicated with our [Portfolio] Minister [Hon. Desmond McKenzie], our [NSWMA] Board, and we are all on the same page, in terms of the approach to the development,” the Executive Director added.
The proposed relocation was initially disclosed by Minister McKenzie during a presentation in March to the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, whose members were deliberating on the 2020/21 Estimates of Expenditure.
The Church Corner waste disposal site, which is within proximity to the Morant Bay roundabout and Bustamante Bridge in St. Thomas, is being removed in light of stakeholder concerns over the potential environmental and health hazards it poses, particularly in light of the facility reaching its capacity earlier in the year.
Mr. Gordon said this prompted the NSWMA to seek an alternative location, which led to their identifying the Winchester property.
He pointed out, however, that with the Church Corner site having peaked its capacity and development of the new landfill not yet under way, the NSWMA was forced to remove 400 truckloads of refuse from that location to the Riverton waste disposal site in Kingston, in order to create space for its continued use.
Mr. Gordon said that while this was the most practical solution, under the circumstances, “we really want to have a facility in St. Thomas that can adequately deal with solid waste disposal across the parish”.
Against this background, the Executive Director said the proposed new facility will be “more than adequate” to fulfil this goal.
“We have the land that can be used to build out a big facility. We probably won’t use more than four or five acres in the initial stages. But, if necessary, we can expand the landfill down the road,” he told JIS News.
He further advised that the property will be fenced to ensure the location is adequately secured and can be properly monitored.
Mr. Gordon said the new disposal site will also benefit residents of several communities in eastern Portland that are near Winchester, such as Manchioneal and Long Road.
“It would be cost-effective and feasible… than to haul garbage from those areas all the way to Buff Bay as now obtains. The communities in both parishes are in proximity to the border, so it would be better for us.” he added.
Mr. Gordon said the NSWMA will continue stakeholder consultations, particularly at the community level with residents, in the lead-up to the project’s commencement.
“The NSWMA is delighted, and I know that the residents of St. Thomas will be very happy to know that we have a location for a new waste disposal site, one that will redound to their benefit and help to safeguard the environment,” he said.
The Executive Director said the NSWMA noted stakeholder concerns regarding the Church Corner landfill, “and we thank the people for their patience, under the circumstances”.
“We just look forward to the time when we can finally clear that area [at Church Corner] and move into that better location in Winchester,” Mr. Gordon added.