Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 23rd 2015 Contents Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
Thursday, April 23, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Minister of the Environment and Water
Resources Ganga Singh has condemned the set-
ting of the fires at the Beetham landfill which
were believed to have been deliberately set yes-
terday, describing the act as reckless and unac-
The event occurred even as workers of the
T&T Solid Waste Management Company Ltd
(SWMCOL) had earlier expressed their dissat-
isfaction over the slow pace of salary negotiations
by protesting for a third day.
The protesting workers were joined by their
colleagues from the Forres Park landfill and san-
itation workers from Tobago.
Singh said the setting of fires at the landfill
only served to create a "very real health and envi-
He said officials from the Water and Sewerage
Authority (WASA) were immediately mobilised
and were working round-the-clock to out the
fires. He noted, however, that the best time to
contain the fire was at night because it was easier
to identify the sources.
He also echoed the sentiments of SWMCOL
chairman Nalini Sooklal, who urged authorities
to speed up negotiations as the situation was
"I hope there is a quick resolution regarding
the matter. The Local Government Ministry has
a responsibility to maintain the dump and also
maintaining good relations at the dump," Singh
Sooklal, who said she believed the issue
stemmed from wage negotiations, said once that
was settled operations at the country s landfills
could operate smoothly once again.
She said the Forres Park landfill, which resumed
operations yesterday, and the Guanapo landfill
will be used in the interim.
Saying that waste collection had also slowed
down due to the protest action by the workers,
"It really is about the wage negotiations. We
are working with the NOC (National Operations
Centre) and we are trying our best. The slowdown
of the waste collection nationwide has had reper-
cussions which were severly felt.
"We are seeing many people lobbying at the
CPO s office and we are appealing to the arms
handling the negotiations for any expedition to
take place because of the volatility of the situ-
ation," Sooklal added.
Last year, some 12 fires were maliciously
set at the Beetham landfill, forcing SWMCOL
to close it down as thick black smoke
billowed into Port-of-Spain.
At least 16 schools had closed while
several businesses also remained shut as
proprietors, employees and shoppers had
complained the smoke was too much to bear.
Students were also forced to remain home
for a couple days as it was reported that the
odours had resulted in runny noses and eyes
and sore throats.
It was also reported that the toxicity level
of the air was 13 times that which was
A view of yesterday's fire at the Beetham landfill from a vantage point at Pashley Street, Laventille. PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES
Business owners and
people working in Port-
of-Spain once again
were bracing for the
worst yesterday after the
capital became engulfed
in smoke due to a fire at
the Beetham landfill.
The fire occurred an
hour after T&T Solid
Company Ltd (SWM-
COL) workers ended
their third consecutive
day of protest. However,
the workers maintained
they did not start it.
"We did not start the
fire. The workers were
inside the lunchroom
when we started to see
the smoke. Every year we
see fires happen in the
dump," said Jason
Thomas, general secre-
tary of the Industrial
General Sanitation Work-
ers Union (IGSWU).
Last January, the city
was also engulfed with
toxic smog after a large
fire burned in the landfill
large fire caused thick
smoke to waft into the
city and caused a traffic
backlog along the
At about 2 pm yester-
day, the workers noticed
the landfill was ablaze.
Thomas, who was on site
when T&T Guardian vis-
ited, said the workers had
nothing to do with the
fire being set.
He said it was not
uncommon for fires to
occur as there were many
combustible items in the
landfill. He said the
workers finished their
protest around 1 pm and
those who were still in
the area were in the
lunchroom when they
saw the fire.
the union would not
encourage any action that
would be harmful to the
"We always have a
peaceful story. We don t
stop vehicles from com-
ing in or doing their job,"
IGSWU is a union
made up entirely of
He added: "We do so
much work in the landfill
but we get no respect.
"People want to say all
these things about us but
they do not give us credit
for all the hard work that
we do. The workers con-
tinue to face all these
hazards on a daily basis."
He maintained that the
improper way in which
garbage is disposed often
led to fires.
"It is not a landfill, it
when it is hot a battery
can explode and cause a
fire and the garbage can
catch afire," Thomas said.
He said usually they
were able to contain a fire
before it escalated into a
full blaze but since the
workers were protesting
they were not able to
detect the fire when it
"This was not a man-
made fire. Usually there
is someone in the back
who would notice if there
was a fire but all the
workers were protesting,"
Thomas said it was not
possible for the workers
in the landfill to start the
fire because it was they
who have to help contain
"Why would we start
the fire if we are the ones
who have to contain it?
The landfill men will be
the ones who have to out
"We have the experi-
ence in extinguishing
fires like this but we
never get the proper safe-
ty gear to out the fire,"
After fire at Beetham landfill...
Yesterday, SWMCOL chair Nalini
Sooklal said the San Juan Laventille
Regional Corporation, Water and
Sewerage Authority (WASA) and the
Fire Services were on the scene to help
contain the fire while officers from the
Besson Street Police Station provided
She said since the last large fire last
year SWMCOL had been working to
find ways to contain fires more
efficiently in the dump. Among the
new methods being used are a cold fire
technology, which is like a foam.
A release from the Environment
Management Authority (EMA)
yesterday said preliminary reports
indicated the fire was seen over the
southwestern portion of the landfill.
The EMA estimated that
approximately 25 per cent of the
landfill was on fire.
"Current surveillance of the area
suggests that the smoke, coupled with
the fluctuating wind direction, is
impacting Sea Lots and Beetham areas
at this time," the EMA said in a
statement as it warned public health
was of grave concern.
It also mobilised teams to monitor
air quality in Laventille, Sea Lots and
the Beetham areas and will continue to
conduct regular air quality monitoring
tests as the need arises and advise the
The EMA also has notified the North
West Regional Health Authority
(NWRHA) and public health officials to
be prepared for people coming in with
possible respiratory problems.
WASA, FIRE SERVICE ON SCENE
Garbage truck drivers were forced to park along the shoulder of the Beetham Highway,
before the entrance to the Beetham landfill, yesterday after they were prevented from
entering because of a protest by SWMCOL workers. PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS
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