Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 28th 2014 Contents YVONNE BABOOLAL
Strong, potentially toxic smoke and
fumes from 12 fires in the Beetham dump,
reportedly lit by angry Beetham Estate res-
idents, yesterday forced the closure of sev-
eral nearby companies and schools after
it blanketed Port-of-Spain and environs.
Staff, teachers and children were sent
home. Reports said they were adversely
There were reports that people living in
the Port-of-Spain area suffering from asthma
also were badly affected.
Fires were reportedly burning at 12 separate
spots on the landfill site.
Up to 4.30 pm yesterday, the T&T Solid
Waste Management Company Limited
(SWMCOL) said it had experienced only
"limited success in containing some of the
SWMCOL said that resulted in some relief
to the Port-of-Spain areas and environs with
road and ambient visibility notably improved.
"However, SWMCOL staff and contribut-
ing agencies are continuing efforts to contain
the fires on the eastern side of the landfill
which are still alight at the moment."
This means that the threat could continue
into today for citizens living, working or
conducting any form of activity in and
around the city.
Hundreds of drivers heading into Port-
of-Spain early yesterday had to drive in dan-
gerously low visibility near the area, barely
making out the vehicle in front of them, it
"I came to town around 6.30 am and I
couldn t see when I was driving over the
flyover (near John John). The place was com-
pletely covered in smoke.
"I just took my time and kept driving. It
was very frightening," a motorist said.
Police said no accidents were reported
from the incident.
Up until late afternoon, a strong scent
filled the air as far as downtown Port-of-
The incident forced the intervention of
the Office of Disaster Preparedness and
Management (ODPM) which, from 4 am,
began co-ordinating responses from several
agencies, including the Fire Services and the
Environmental Management Authority
ODPM CEO Dr Stephen Ramroop,
describing the disturbance not as a disaster
but an environmental hazard, called for the
closure of the dump.
He said the ODPM was on alert from
Sunday night after reports that protesting
Beetham residents had lit fires in the dump.
He said visibility was so poor early in the
morning that motorists had to put on their
fog lights and officers were called out to
direct traffic. Ramroop said when the sun
came up it dissipated much of the smoke
and some of the toxicity.
The incident believed to have sparked the
residents into starting the fires unfolded on
Sunday morning after Beetham resident
Randy Williams was reportedly shot in the
legs by the police on mobile patrol near the
The police said the man was shot after
he repeatedly threw stones at their vehicle
and refused to follow their orders to stop
SWMCOL general manager, sales, mar-
keting and communications, George Elias,
said the company worked assiduously with
the Fire Services to bring the fires under
The Disaster Management Unit of the San
Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation, the
EMA and the ODPM also provided valuable
support to the effort, he said.
He said the fires, which "started on Sunday
and were unplanned," and were burning at
more than 12 separate locations on the land-
fill, making it extremely difficult to manage
SWMCOL appealed to users of the
Beetham dump to divert to its two other
landfill sites at Forres Park and Guanapo to
assist in bringing the situation under control
in the shortest possible time.
Early yesterday, National Petroleum (NP)
also sent out a release stating its head office
at National Drive, Sea Lots, near the Beetham
landfill, was closed for the day as employees
were adversely affected.
T&T Unified Teachers Association
(TTUTA) president Devanand Sinanan said
he got reports that a number of primary and
secondary schools near the Beetham had to
be closed because of the smoke and fumes.
"The principal has that discretionary
power," he said.
Excel Composite School in the Beetham,
St Phillip s Government Primary School on
the Old St Joseph Road, Laventille, and Suc-
cess/Laventille Composite School were all
reportedly affected by the smoke and fumes
emanating from the Beetham fires.
This was the second time in under a year
that fires at the landfill had left Port-of-
Spain and environs blanketed in toxic smoke.
On May 23 last year, fires also raged at the
site and the authorities battled for over four
days to bring them under control.
The latest Beetham fires also come one
month after 11 oil spills devastated T&T s
southwestern coast. (See page A5)
Minimum wage still to be reviewed --- McLeod News --- Page A6
POST YOUR VIEWS ON ANY OF TODAY'S STORIES @ WWW.GUARDIAN.CO.TT
Environmentalist Marc de Verteuil said yes-
terday that dioxins from burning plastic in
landfill sites are some of the nastiest toxins.
"They contain carcinogens which can cause
cancer," he said.
De Verteuil said the impact of the smoke and
fumes from the Beetham fires can be a long-
term one. He said friends of his who suffer from
asthma said they were having serious problems
and called for the closure of the Beetham dump.
He said 80 per cent of its waste could he recycled.
Fishermen & Friends of the Sea (FFOS) said
that gases escaping from the Beetham dump
contain toxic pollutants that directly cause asth-
ma and other serious respiratory ailments.
"Well proven studies link living near landfills
with cancer, where escaping gases will typically
contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including
volatile organic compounds," a FFOS release,
signed by secretary Gary Aboud and president
Terrence Beddoe, said.
The FFOS said all dumps like the Beetham
leak toxic leachate and even "engineered" landfills
will eventually leach and pollute nearby ground-
"The Beetham was started in a mangrove
swamp with shallow ground water, the worst
place for a landfill. When landfills catch fire the
partially combusted smoke can be deadly if there
is persistent exposure."
It said for almost two decades the FFOS had
pointed out the unsatisfactory situation at the
It added: "Administrations have come and
gone and nothing has ever been done. Unqual-
ified persons have been repeatedly appointed to
the board and management of SWMCOL.
"Any visitor heading to the Hyatt only has to
drive by the Beetham to know how third world
our rich little oil/gas economy actually is. Poverty
on the right and pollution on the left."
The FFOS is planning to mount an unprece-
dented public awareness campaign to force envi-
ronmental issues onto the political platforms in
the upcoming general election.
"We shall not stand by while unqualified and
self-serving politicians continue to ruin the
health of innocent and unsuspecting commu-
nities. Pollution must join poverty, crime and
corruption centre stage in the next elections,"
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
As 12 fires burn at Beetham landfill...
for 27th JANUARY, 2014
Britain and Canada are happy to be lending
assistance to T&T in its war on crime. However,
neither country endorses "legislative measures for
implementation of the death penalty" as reported
in yesterday's paper (Page A8). Both the UK and
Canada are opposed to capital punishment.
Our apologies to the High Commissioners of the
UK and Canada.
GETTING IT RIGHT
to flee capital
Visibility was a problems for motorists along the Beetham Highway yesterday as smoke
from fires that started at the nearby Beetham landfill on Sunday night left Port-of-Spain
and environs blanketed in thick smoke. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
Toxins can lead
to health woes
Links Archive January 27th 2014 January 29th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page