POND ISLAND Government did not and is not “maliciously keeping” information about the situation at the dump from the public, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin stated firmly in the Council of Ministers Press Briefing on Wednesday.
The study, commissioned by the World Bank, “does not include the environmental or public health repercussions of the surrounding communities in its scope,” Romeo-Marlin said, in response to an article recently published by Dutch daily de Volkskrant. The newspaper alleged that government hid the toxicity of the smoke from the dump from residents.
“The article wrongly concludes that the Government of Sint Maarten is maliciously keeping this information from the public,” Romeo-Marlin said.
Samples for the report that is still in draft were taken directly from points of exhaust at the landfill in areas of the immediate vicinity of the fissures. “Testing was not done at any points outside of the landfill to determine the levels of contaminants in the traveling smoke,” Romeo-Marlin said.
“We are in talks to engage another entity to measure the air quality in neighboring communities. From this assessment a plan for a permanent air quality testing system can be put in place,” she added. “It is our full intent to share and communicate effectively with our community leading up to the start of the fire suppression activities.”
In October, civil servants in the workgroup from the government received a draft copy of a baseline study performed by a consultancy firm hired by the World Bank to assist with the preparation of the Emergency Debris Management project. That report is being finalized and serves to determine which measures are necessary to protect the occupational health and safety of the workers on the fire suppression activities.
The study was been commissioned by the World Bank “and thus belongs to the World Bank; any disclosure of the content of the report, or the timing or form of such disclosure, would be determined by the World Bank in accordance with the World Bank’s Policy on Access to Information,” Romeo-Marlin said.
Government has received several requests to share the contents of the study. “However, it is not our document to share,” Romeo-Marlin said.