After decades of posing a smoke nuisance and its attendant health risks to thousands of Corporate Area residents, the Riverton City dump off Spanish Town Road in St Andrew is to be decommissioned.
The announcement was made on Friday by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during the special joint sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives to mark Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of Independence.
Holness said the Government has undertaken a comprehensive review of the country’s public sanitation, garbage collection and waste disposal system which he described as a “perennial problem for Jamaica”.
“We now have a plan which will see greater private sector participation in waste collection, the introduction of waste-to-energy conversion, the commissioning of new and properly built disposal sites and the decommissioning of various dumps including the Riverton City dump,” Holness told the sitting.
He said that by September he will be having discussions with the Member of Parliament for St Andrew Western, Anthony Hylton, in whose constituency the problem-plagued dump is located, to fully brief him on the plans and to secure his support for the plans.
Holness acknowledged that the dump sites are revenue earners for some people.
“Just to be clear, this is something that the political class will have to work together on. It’s not simply a matter of saying we’re closing down Riverton City dump, people depend on it for their economic survival, people live around (the facility),” said the prime minister.
Efforts have been made over the years to upgrade the Riverton facility to a landfill but periodic fires there means it continues to pose a health threat to residents of nearby communities who are at times forced to inhale the toxic smoke for days at a time while firefighters battle to bring the situation under control. Environmentalists have in the past threatened class action lawsuits to get the authorities to resolve the longstanding problem.
Reports have also emerged over the years that the dump was deliberately lit on numerous occasions by unscrupulous persons who in turn benefit after being contracted to help extinguish the fires.