BVI News

Smoke causing residents to evacuate West End communities

Photo captured Tuesday, May 15: Smoke from the Cox Heath fire is affecting several communities on the western end of Tortola. (Photo Credit: Davion Smith/BVI News)

By Esther Durand and Davion Smith, BVI News Staff

As the seven-day-old fire continues to smoulder at the Cox Heath dump on Tortola, the far-reaching and suffocating smoke is now forcing residents in surrounding communities out of their homes.

Standing from a vantage point of a hill in the area, smoke can be seen migrating from the dump and heading in a westerly direction.

“It is uncomfortable because we experienced it ourselves so we know it is not good for the people down there. Especially the people who live in Towers and Romney Estate, Belmont, Spyglass Hill, Capoon’s Bay, and West End,” Chief Environmental Health Officer Lionel Michael told BVI News on Tuesday, May 15.

“People are trying to cope with the situation and they do all they can. Some people close windows, some people have been moving out of the area temporarily and going to other places because they just can’t take it.”

According to Michael, the fire is worrisome for his department.

“We are very concerned. The type of waste going to the site is likely to release several types of gases and substances which are not good for the health of the people. Some people have underlying conditions that the smoke aggravate. We want the fire to be extinguished in a matter of haste,” he said.

Photo captured Tuesday, May 15: Authorities say there is no visual blaze but there is fire beneath the piles of soil and debris dumped at the Cox Heath on Tortola. (Photo by Davion Smith/BVI News)

Survey conducted

The Chief Environmental Health Officer said local authorities recently conducted a ‘rapid survey’ of the communities that are being affected. Eighty households were surveyed between Saturday to Monday, Michael told BVI News.

He said a report has been submitted to the Ministry of Health for review.

“The findings were not alarming, they were what we expected. People are reporting stuffiness, coughing, headaches, and general symptoms.”

Further tests coming

In the meantime, the Environmental Health Department is seeking to do further tests.

“We did some basic tests — carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and so on and we didn’t find anything alarming in the area. But we would like to do more specialized testing in the air, soil, and vegetation,” he said.

The specialized testing will give a clearer indication of the scope of the fire and its impacts, Michael said. He further said local authorities will be seeking help regionally to have testing done.

Since the fire started last Wednesday, local fire officers have been at the dump 24/7.

They have been trying to monitor and contain the blaze by digging a trench around it and pumping thousands of gallons of seawater into it.

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  1. WELL says:

    It were the molds getting their sick workers and clients because of their lack of concern for human now they are finishing us with toxic smoke. Look how we treated by our own government. We are worst than a third world country. This government refuse help to suffocate us . I am saying no thanks I am closing shop and setting up some where else.

  2. Alarmed says:

    “The findings were not alarming”…

    “We did some basic tests — carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and so on and we didn’t find anything alarming in the area.”

    WTF would be alarming? People are being poisoned and you’re not alarmed? This is ridiculous. I am hugely alarmed that you are not alarmed.

  3. Insurance says:

    Is the Health department measuring the levels of toxins in the air? How other than visual assessments are we monitoring this environmental disaster?

  4. Outsider says:

    Not a fxxx mask from the government for the West jack fruit them yet and they want u to march…!!

  5. Maggie says:

    Pockwood pond was always a problem for those residing in the above areas. Because no politicians reside in those areas, nothing was ever done even thoughcomplaints about the toxic smoke were frequently made. As ‘spontaneous’ combustion was always given as the reason, inevitably piling up the debris at Coxheath was going to do the same.

  6. Scary Mary says:

    The fact that this sort of thing is STILL happening indicates just how much our government doesn’t give a hoot about our health.

    These fires have been an ongoing problem for all of us living west of Pockwood Pond for donkey’s years. It doesn’t seem to matter how many women lose their babies or how many more cancer victims there are in the west versus anywhere else in the BVI. People are expendable when money is concerned. We just aren’t a priority.

    I get wakened up in the middle of the night when the wind changes direction and blows that acrid stench into the valley. The smell is overwhelmingly horrid and you can actually taste the air!

  7. Ashamed to be a Belonger says:

    How can you say the findings have not been alarming? Isn’t this criminal negligence? People have been getting sick. Lack of equipment on island means air quality cannot be tested but it is well known by health authorities what dangerous substances are in the air. There has not been a 24/7 response at the fire site. This is foolishness. Why are the leaders not speaking about this? And we expect the UK to respect us. We don’t respect each other. Low point in history of the VI.

  8. concerned citizen says:

    This has been a problem for decades. Many people from the west and Carrot Bay have died from cancer and I believe the cause it the toxic smoke from Cox Heath. Government needs to start recycling and separate the items that are toxic. How many people must die.
    I remember that the people of St. John have been complaining for decades also. I’m surprised that they haven’t filed a class action sued against the BVI Government.

  9. rigmarole says:

    When i first saw that dump site i could not believe it.
    We were told that the stuff was being sorted for recycling. We really need to step up….there are so many capable persons but they are willfully by-passed because of politics….a few want to control everything and are making a royal mess…what a shame.

  10. Nurse says:

    Not because we are not hearing about anything, means nothing is being done.

    Results are not alarming but people and places will continue to be monitored. Those that need or needed medical treatment have sought and will continue to. SO LET ME SAY AS A NURSE, PLEASE IF YOU FEEL ANY SYMPTOMS ESPECIALLY RESPIRATORY AND CHEST PAINS, DO NOT HESITATE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION BEFORE IT GOES TO FAR. We are all adults in which some have responsibilities of kids, elderly, persons with disabilities etc so continue working together.

    Look at this, as we are a tiny country we will feel and see more. But I can assure you this happens all over the world concluding the U.S.A who have abundant of factories. But because the USA is a huge mass of land we don’t always see but the effects they feel as they have so many sick people there, especially with respiratory related issues such as RADS, Asthma and the list continues.

    Why don’t we come together as one despite our differences and pre conceived notions about the government or whomever and lets do something. Continue looking out for our neighbors, continue practicing patience you know what I mean.

    We all know the people responsible and that are expertise in situations like these have been working daily. And I am quite sure when they return home after work that brain activity continues as they want this to end just like everyone else. We are acting including myself for an immediate end which we all know will not happen because of the nature of what may be in those rubbles.

    So in the mean time lets continue to do what we can. Like wear a mask as i have seen many persons mentioned (not even government giving) but if you can find a mask to protect yourself please do that or asked your nearby health facilities if you can get mask in interim as they work on completely resolving this situation. And I am absolutely sorry persons were interrupted from their humble abode because of this. I pray just like you for a solution and an end.

    My lovely people of these islands and those neighbouring islands affected, let’s continue to be vigilant for ourselves and neighbors as this situation finds an end.
    Thank you all so much for reading, understanding, being patient etc.

  11. Hmmm says:

    F*#k you. You DO NOT live in West End. Even with a mask it is hard to breathe. You have ZERO idea what families are experiencing on a daily basis as a result of this perpetual smoke which I believe more than ever was set intentionally. I dear to say you don’t evem reside in the BVI. You just one who benefits from the gravy train in some way or the other. Your palms and mouth too greased to smell or taste the ash!!!

    STOP talking about the US where you live, bc people in the US have to answer to the courts and relevant authorities. Government here is a law unto themselves. But, election day is coming and no free ticket to vote will help you.

    • Nurse says:

      Thanks for your response Hmmm. Fowl language is not needed. I am living right here in the BVI ando can definitely attest to what they are dealing with as I suffer from breathing and lung issues daily just from our regular environment before this incident happened at Cox Heath. Its hard me to breath on a regular day. But Despite my medical issues I work daily to help those that come in our hospital with symptoms from same incident whatever their complaint may be.

      But my message still remains. Where mask and seek medical attention when needed.

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