With ongoing gang violence splitting Riverton City in St Andrew into at least three sections, according to residents who spoke with Loop News on a recent visit to the area, mini dumps have popped up inside the community that is the home of Jamaica’s largest garbage disposal site, Riverton City dump.
The residents explained that warring factions are determined to retain access to what they consider their share of the garbage, which contains valuable items such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and scrap metal that they retrieve for sale.
“They’ve divided the community over the last four years into about three separate and distinct areas, and they have created another situation where people start to divert solid waste from going to the dump and starting mini dumps around the place,” one male resident disclosed.
“There are mini dumps popping up all over Riverton that are creating both health and fire risks,” he emphasised.
When contacted, Anthony Hylton, the Member of Parliament for St Andrew Western which is where Riverton City is located, confirmed the presence of mini dumps in the community.
This, he said, was a matter for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to address.
As it relates to the sporadic gang violence in the area, Hylton lamented that Riverton City is “a wide open area” that attracts undesirables from all over the country, including Spanish Town in St Catherine, who contribute to the problem of violence plaguing the community.
That, he said, was a police matter.
“Riverton is a wide open space with people entering the dump from all over the place, so you don’t know who is who. You know somebody tonight and there’s some violence and it’s not the same violence producer (the next day), it’s some strange face,” Hylton said.
Meanwhile, according to one woman who appeared to be defending the diversion of solid waste from the main dump site to other parts of the community, “Garbage is money”.
“Everybody haffi secure fi dem share,” she said.
The residents explained that the gang violence makes it unsafe for them to venture into certain parts of the community, with some of them unable to access the landfill where they eke out a daily hustle.
As a result, they instruct the drivers of the garbage trucks to offload their contents at locations away from the landfill. The Loop News team did observe garbage strewn about sections of the community.
Member of Parliament for St Andrew Western Anthony Hylton
The Member of Parliament also lamented that with the divisions created by the warring factions, some residents are afraid to attend community meetings when they are called to discuss important matters like the pending closure of the dump and his ongoing efforts to help them secure titles for the lands on which they have lived for decades.
When contacted about the mini dumps, Executive Director of the NSWMA, Audley Gordon, put a different spin on the matter while suggesting that gang violence is contributing to the problem.
“The story you get out of Riverton will vary depending on who you talk to,” Gordon told Loop News.
“There are always gang issues in Riverton, the police will tell you that, it is not anything that is secret. There are a lot of gangs all over the place down there.
“What I can tell you is that they hustle off the garbage, so the scrap metal, plastic bottles, different components of the garbage, people make a livelihood from it. I’m not saying that they divert trucks, because we still get our 300 to 400 truckloads of garbage each day (at the landfill); that is consistent, and the numbers have not declined.
“But, what we do know is that they (residents) will stop the trucks and take things off the trucks that are of value to them. I know that, we have had that experience from where people tell us that and the truckers tell us that,” said Gordon.
Executive Director of the NSWMA, Audley Gordon
“To say that they divert the trucks and dump garbage to make other dumps, to what end?” he asked rhetorically.
“Sometimes they will intercept the trucks but not in a wholesale way,” he insisted.
In the meantime, Hylton said he intends to speak publicly on the issue as it must be addressed as a matter of urgency.