Since smoke from the Pockwood Pond waste facility on Tortola is still a major menace to persons living in West End, Health Minister Carvin Malone said government intends to purchase and distribute carbon filter masks to affected residents.
Malone explained that the smoke is from spontaneous fires that happen when the waste dumped to the back of the Pockwood Pond facility combusts.
But, the minister said government will now be engaging additional personnel to coordinate landfill operations to ensure ‘efficient waste disposal’ that will reduce the occurrence of these combustions.
He said other immediate solutions from the government include finalising and issuing a contract for the restoration of the facility’s incinerator that was damaged in a freak accident late last year.
Malone said authorities will further institute advanced monitoring of air quality in chronically affected areas. He said this type of monitoring is to inform residents of “different levels of alertness”.
Considerable spending from residents
However, some residents have already begun making considerable spends to combat the problem themselves.
Susanna Henighan Potter — a mother of a five-month-old infant living in the area — has already spent more than $1,000 on air purifiers and other items to protect herself and her family from the unending smouldering.
“We have purchased two air purifiers for inside the house that is constantly running to keep the inside of the house safe. And we recently purchased a Purple Air quality sensor for outside that tells us the level of pollution. So, we do not have to rely on our noses to know if it is safe or not to be outside; particularly with the baby,” Potter said.
She said the two air purifiers amounted to $1,000 while the sensor was another few hundred dollars.
“We are doing what we can to stay safe and to keep our [infant] daughter safe. But it’s really scary not knowing what’s in the smoke and it’s something that we worry about. We are talking about a fire that burns tires and appliances and all sorts of other things. We don’t know what kind of impact it could have on our daughter down the road,” she explained.
My health affected too
Potter said the smoke has already started to affect her health as well.
“Occasionally, I will feel that I have a sore throat, I will be coughing, and it is not because I have a cold. I have never had any respiratory issues in the past … It (the smoke) does affect me because you can’t avoid it entirely, as sometimes you have to be outside,” she said.
“Whenever there is any smoke outside, we go inside and make sure all the doors and windows are closed, so it’s hot. It is very depressing and frustrating not to be able to be outside to enjoy the air and to be able to breathe in clean air and to be able to take the dogs for a walk and to be able to sit out on your porch and enjoy the view,” Potter further told our news centre.
I’m not bashing the gov’t
And while making it clear that she was not bashing government, the West End resident further said she accepts that the issue is no ‘quick fix’.
“I think the government would fix it in a blink if it were an easy problem to fix. It is a hard problem to fix, and I recognize that and a lot of people have been making efforts,” she said.
When BVI News visited the location recently, one trucking company was seen on site trying to pump water on to the mountain of garbage that had been dumped and set ablaze there.
Before becoming Premier, Representative of the West End constituents Andrew Fahie had proposed last September that authorities implement a ‘consultation group’ to facilitate communication between government and residents who have grown increasingly concerned about the health hazards being bred by a public incinerator at Pockwood Pond.
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