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STATEMENT FROM THE NSWMA BOARD OF DIRECTORS ON THE RECENT FIRES AT DISPOSAL SITES ISLAND-WIDE



National Solid Waste Management Authority | 2018-08-07 18:15:00

The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) board of directors met on Thursday, 02nd August 2018, in order to get a full report on the Riverton Disposal Site and ten (10) other fires that occurred on disposal sites island-wide within the past two (2) months. The board of directors apologizes to all Jamaican citizens for the recent fires and the effects they have had on our residents and businesses. We wish to inform the public that both the fires at Riverton and Retirement Disposal Sites have now been completely extinguished. Fires on disposal sites are a normal part of solid waste management and most are quickly controlled and handled without the public even being aware. However, based on the reports to date, several of the major fires which occurred in the last two months, in particular, the Retirement and Riverton disposal sites fires, which had the greatest impact and also contributed the most to the cost, are highly suspected to be the work of arsonists. On receiving the report from the Executive Director, Mr. Audley Gordon, the board of directors agreed that enhanced security measures were necessary to guard against any further deliberate action. -more-
Despite these fires being deliberate, we are aware that we have a responsibility to implement measures that will further mitigate the risk of fires on the disposal sites. As a result, we have decided on the following actions to be taken: 1) Ensuring greater stock piles of cover material are strategically located on each disposal site to enable a quick response; 2) Further enhancement of the fire prevention and control measures, such as fire suppression systems, particularly at Retirement Disposal Site, to bring it up, at least, to the standard of Riverton Disposal Site; 3) Increased assistance from the Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF) and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), in monitoring the disposal sites; 4) The use of drones and other security means to monitor the disposal sites. We have also been in discussion with the Government, through the Minister of Local Government, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, and the Prime Minister, who have both committed to providing the necessary resources to assist with these initiatives. After examination, we are also of the view that these fires showed that our preparedness has improved significantly since the March 2015 fire, as measured by the following: 1) While the single fire at the Riverton Disposal Site in March 2015, cost some $200M to bring under control, the eleven (11) fires in the last two months cost approximately $110M, with the Retirement Disposal Site fire costing $64M of that amount. Also, the recent Riverton Disposal Site fire continued for three to four days as opposed to the three weeks it did in 2015. While these facts point to improvement in the readiness of the disposal sites for these unfortunate situations, we are nonetheless very aware that greater improvement must be made to further mitigate the risks, particularly at Retirement Disposal Site. 2) Since its implementation, the fire suppression system at the Riverton Disposal Site, has been instrumental in putting out numerous fires caused by spontaneous combustion, and was critical as a first response to the last fire, which might have been worse, but for this fire suppression system. 
3) The readiness of the NSWMA staff, and the response of various other stakeholders, illustrated the preparedness of the NSWMA and the governmental authorities to address these emergencies. 4) Our risk mitigation strategy at the Riverton Disposal Site of only keeping 3-4 of the 120 acres uncovered and used as the active cell for accepting daily in-coming solid waste, greatly lessened the impact of the fire. The immediate transmittal of information to the public concerning the fires served to illustrate the readiness of the communication network to keep the public informed which, as a Board, we consider important. The increased incidence of fires at all the disposal sites will be thoroughly investigated. We are working with security officials to conduct full investigations and to bring any perpetrators to justice where it is confirmed that these fires were indeed acts of arson. Any such act against the citizens of Jamaica is a serious crime, and must be treated as such. As we see the various wildfires, raging out of control in other parts of the world, we are particularly concerned that such devastation not be inflicted on our country as a consequence of criminal behaviour. The board of directors also discussed other governance issues, including the upcoming board retreat, where we will review the strategic objectives of the Authority. This includes urging the Enterprise Team, responsible for the privatization of the disposal sites and garbage collection, to detail the timeline for privatization as, until then, the NSWMA is in a holding position. This is of particular concern, as we recognize that the ultimate solution is the privatization of the disposal sites, and possibly eventual relocation, which rests on the outcome of the work of the Enterprise Team. Additionally, we discussed the draft audited financial statements for 2017/18, which we expect to be submitted to our Minister shortly, for presentation to Cabinet and Parliament in September. This will mark the first time since 2004, that the audited financial statements are up to date at the NSWMA and we have put the foundation in place to ensure that this continues after the life of this board. 
The board wants to express sincere gratitude to the Executive Director, Audley Gordon, and his team for the tireless efforts, beyond the call of duty, to bring things back to normal. We also want to thank the staff of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), who proved that despite resource challenges, they are willing to do what is necessary to safeguard our nation. Our thanks also go out to China Harbour (CHEC) for their unhesitating willingness to assist us with much needed equipment, and so too the JDF, who not only assisted with equipment, but along with the JCF were only too willing to assist with the security. Finally, we thank our always supportive Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, and the Prime Minister, for their guidance and support throughout these episodes.




Posted By :Shauna Guthrie

Company Name : National Solid Waste Management Authority

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