Government requested to deal with dump now

~ On-line petition started for public to sign ~

PHILIPSBURG–A handful of concerned residents gathered at Clem Labega Square in front of the Government Administration Building at 7:30am Monday. The residents are concerned about the fire on the sanitary landfill that started on April 15.

The group presented a letter requesting that the Council of Ministers deal urgently with the sanitary landfill, also known as the dump problem. The letter, which states some of the grievances about the dump, was submitted to Government through its General Affairs department and copies were delivered to the Governor’s Office and the office of the Ombudsman.

Minister of Health Emil Lee came out to hear the concerned residents, who included members of new political parties Benjamin Ortega, Pastor Wycliffe Smith and Rene Wilson. President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams also was present during the gathering.

The letter states; “Pond Island Philipsburg St. Maarten also referred to as the dump has reached its economic lifespan as confirmed by previous ministers in parliamentary meetings. Despite this fact, garbage continues to be dumped in this area over exceeding limitations of this site.

“The sanitary landfill can be seen smouldering 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 continuous basis, not only when big fires occur of which the recent [one of – Ed.] April 15.

“The toxic smoke emitted by the sanitary landfill is not only affecting residents downwind of the immediate surroundings of the site, but can be smelled many miles away and during large fires as far as over the hill. The conclusion is that the sanitary landfill is affecting the health of many residents on St. Maarten.

“The landfill has grown to become a very large hill of undocumented garbage in the centre of a densely populated Philipsburg area. The constant threat of a possible large explosion with extensive collateral damage cannot be ruled out, as a public safety issue.”

The group wants Government to deal with this issue in the next Council of Ministers meeting, to issue a press release and give a deadline when the issue will be dealt with and to issue an instruction, including a deadline for project completion, to the relevant Government departments to execute the project.

An on-line petition was 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 on the website .

In a recent press statement, the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour advised persons living downwind from the landfill fire to close windows and doors, especially persons who have a respiratory challenge. This action also should be taken in the future.

Persons who suffer from asthma, shortness of breath, or any other respiratory challenges, are advised to close their windows and doors until the fumes clear. Individuals who do not have respiratory issues, but are residing downwind, also should close their windows and doors if irritated by the smell from the fire.

Minister of Public Health Emil Lee said, “The Ministry is very much aware of the potentially negative impact that chemicals released into the air by the fire at the dump can have on the health of the population. We advise the population to exercise caution when downwind of the fumes from the fire, and this also applies for future fire events at the landfill.”

Source: Daily Herald Government requested to deal with dump now