BVI News

PWP waste issues now a hazard to BVIEC, major fire comes dangerously close to powerplant

Not the actual blaze mentioned in the story.

The ongoing waste management issues at the Pockwood Pond dump site on Tortola has now become a hazard to engine performance at the BVI Electricity Corporation’s main power plant, which services 11 islands in the territory.

This was highlighted after a massive fire broke out at the dumpsite. It took five firemen eight hours to extinguish the blaze early Tuesday morning.

The fire came within 20 to 25 feet of the BVIEC’s compound, authorities told BVI News.

“The last thing you want fire encountering is a power plant because, bear in mind, you have the main building, but you have a lot of storage tanks around the building, so you would want to keep something like a bush fire as far away from the compound as possible,” Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean told BVI News on Tuesday.

McLean said his department received an alert about the fire at 9:57 pm on Monday and responded shortly after. But by the time the firefighters responded at the scene, the fire had reached the hills and began spreading on the hill towards the direction of the power plant.

“It took like a full day’s work and the officers had to move very carefully. It was a very large area, so it was quite challenging,” Chief McLean said, adding that the exact cause of the fire is still unknown.

The matter is of concern to us

In the meantime, General Manager at the BVIEC Leroy Abraham described the incident as concerning.

“The fire was extremely close to our premises … just over the fence. Those fires have been unfortunately quite frequent in recent times, and the consistent open-air burning also creates some concern to us based on the close proximity of it to our facility,” he said.

The BVIEC boss further said the operations of the powerplant could potentially be affected if the issue is not brought under control.

“We were impacted — not by the fire but by the volume of smoke in general because we need clean air to operate from a human health standpoint. And also for combustion of the engine to take place efficiently. So, that would affect the operations of the plant from a technical standpoint as well, and it could potentially derate the production of the units which may not be able to produce at its full capacity based on the smoke,” Abrahams pointed out.

However, Abrahams said, as far as he understands, Monday night’s episode has not affected the plant’s productivity.

He further said the plant could potentially become affected if the fires and the large volumes of smoke they produce continue.

We can’t fight major fires

Meanwhile, the BVIEC boss said the plant is not equipped to fight major external fires such as the recent one.

“It is very difficult in predicting a fire of this magnitude getting on our compound. But we do have a firefighting system. Whether that firefighting system would be able to fully control and mitigate a fire of that nature and degree is somewhat questionable. I don’t think we have the capability to fight a fire originating from the incinerator. Based on the close proximity of the incinerator to our fuel storage, we do not have the firefighting capabilities for that.”

He said their firefighting system is limited to fires originating on their compound.

“We have a limited volume of water, we have some foam extinguishers and different types of extinguishers for the different types of fires that can occur on the compound,” he explained.

BVIEC’s staff was unaware of the fire

Notably, Abraham said despite the facility being manned 24/7, the staff of BVIEC were not the ones who alerted authorities about the fire.

“We didn’t know the fire department was down there until we saw that someone had connected to one of our fire hydrants,” he said

Copyright 2020 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

41 Comments

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  1. Not2Sure says:

    No kidding. This situation is already a national disgrace – we need to hope it doesn’t turn into a national disaster too.

    Even if the fire doesn’t spread to the plant, I am sure all of the smoke and other airborne contaminants are going into the generator fuel intakes and not doing them much good.

    It just amazes me how no one in the public sector can get the situation under control. It is like Irma all over again – our Government is utterly powerless when it comes to dealing with real problems.

    Like 45
    • Call Me Ismael says:

      We need that whistleblower law that Fahie promised. We voted for him because he promised transparency and solutions to problems like this.
      What happened to the police investigation of the Wall? What happened to the investigation of the $7.2m lost to the airline.
      Those investigations and Fahie’s transparency promises all seem to bring up in smoke along with the dump.

      Like 10
      Dislike 4
    • @not2sure says:

      Because everyone in public sector is a bunch of J**k****s. They have no idea what to do or how to do things. No one have the proper thinking skills to figure out how to fix the problem. Calling on all high school students, please brain storm a solution and work together to figure out a way fix this problem seeing that no one in public sector can’t figure it out. I bet you guys can do it.

  2. STOOPID says:

    They had the entire West End smoked out Monday night.. smh

    Like 19
    • Sorry for the people in the west says:

      I feel sorry for the people in the West, most cannot leave the area because they have their homes that they invested in. I am so sorry to say but,the toxins and everything bad burning they have to inhale will be the death of them. Now they want people to walk around with mask looking like fools.

      Like 25
  3. EU citizen says:

    The air quality at Romney Park July 2-3 was at “emergency conditions with 24 hrs exposure” according to purpleair.com, see
    https://www.purpleair.com/map?#12.19/18.40883/-64.69824

    What does it take to make the government stop burning trash?
    A complete stop in tourists coming?
    If that happens it will take decades to get them back again. And clean air, and clean waters, and clean landscapes.

    Stop it now before it’s too late.

    Like 37
    • Tourist says:

      Why do we have to spend thousands of dollars to visit a desternation to inhale toxins in the air. A Carribean Island is suppose to be pristine, that is the reason we visit to get away from the smog and dirty air quality.

      Like 18
      • Tourist 2 says:

        Other islands don’t seem to have this issue, so we have changed our plans for vacation this year. Sorry BVI.

        • EU Citizen says:

          We sailed 30 days in April all the way from Grenada up to San Juan visiting around 20 islands. The only place we saw smoke was Tortola. We saw many trash dumps but no fires except Tortola.

        • Tourist #3 says:

          I never knew this was going on until my Travel Agent inform me about the sautation when I went to book my reservations. I am not willing to put my Family in that type of sautation so therefore we will be vacationing in Saint Lucia.

    • Concerned citizen says:

      I am sooo stressed out with that garbage burning of the garbage in my village. It is OVERBEARING and we should not be made to endure this. Still we are expected to pay this bloody NHI. It is NOT right!! When they set those fires, you can literally smell the chemicals in the air. I say “set” because that is what they do. They intentionally set those fires. Why are we being made to suffer like animals trapped for slaughtering???

  4. vip heckler says:

    We hired bodyguards,flew all over the globe, ordered 8 expensive SUV’s for VIP’s top brass and up to yet we cant order the parts to repair the incinerator>>>>>>>>>>>>>All i can say is WOW !!!!!!!!!!!

    Like 45
  5. vip heckler says:

    The gas masks are on the way, some VIP crony will be rich indeed.

    Like 24
    • Damn the masks says:

      Why should people have to be walking around with mask on their faces looking like fools. Whoever idea this was, it was a dumb idea. Oh my goodness, I am so pissed. A F***ing mask instead of sitting your dumb A**es down and figure out how to fix the problem. I agree, someone pockets is going to be lined with $$$$ behind this stupid idea on the backs of the people who is being poisoned by the toxins they have to inhale on a daily.I am considering sitting down with an Attorney to find out what my options are in refrence to filing a lawsuit.

      Like 15
  6. free advice says:

    Lets dig a huge pit (to prevent the fire spreading) and burn all the garbage in it until the plant is restored.

    Like 1
    Dislike 12
    • @Free Advice says:

      That is only going to make things worse. The smoke is going to still affect everyone. And to the people who is not living in the West don’t think you are not being affected by the toxins in the air. If it the air is blowing down to the VI, it is blowing all over the BVI. If this is not corrected sooner than later, the BVI will be facing millions in lawsuits.

      Like 11
      Dislike 1
  7. Concern says:

    Find a different location for the dump.

    Like 11
    Dislike 6
  8. Get Serious says:

    Don’t fall for the risible understating of the extent of the current fire / smoke. It is raging not smoldering. There is no effective waste management strategy being planned, delivered or prioritised. PRIORITISE MEANS NOW NOT MONTHS FROM NOW. Last week’s announcement re carbon filter masks etc confirmed that this situation is not under control and not being given the urgent attention it deserves.

    Ask yourself why a large boat is allowed to be dumped up in the Pockwood Pond landfill hills? Who is responsible for that? Why does no one do anything?

    There is a great opportunity to set the VIs on the right path for the next generation but the opposite is happening. Waste Management (inc. recycling) are not “nice things to have”, they are critical to the infrastructure and to the health of people and their environment. In most countries criminal penalties go with polluting / endangering the health of the people and are enforced.

    It is ridiculous to continue along this slow path. Everyone knows this (including the elusive “scrubber”) can be done more quickly with the right motivation / people. Bring in the experts. Spend the money by using experts not faux consultants and the like.

    In the absence of an urgent response from Government on the solution (with fixed timeframes) a coordinated protest march is needed so that the people are heard. If you don’t live West of Pockwood Pond you should still care. This is our own humanitarian crisis and we need to get serious if we want to see real action.

    Please can the media make this its priority and not drop it or under-report the situation.

    Like 25
    • Hmmm says:

      They won’t march for this or call a meeting to discuss the implications.
      Tell them though, that u going fast track residency and belongership for expats l who have been here forever and see the reaction?

      Like 11
  9. Concerned says:

    If you watch the news, people are dying of cancer now since 911. This disaster compares since it is a daily issue for people west end and all the way to St Stomas, that are breathing in this very toxic air.

    Like 15
    Dislike 1
  10. Navigator says:

    So, if anyone has any ideas how to put out a smoking garbage heap, please post your suggestions

    • How about says:

      Not piling up garbage that is supposed to be going in a landfill in the loading bay of the incinerator which you have already burned down? Sheer incompetence and mismanagement.
      Where else does a waste dept burn down its own incinerator and then allow fire hazards near a power plant?

  11. West End resident says:

    The smoke was BAD last night (Tuesday)! All the way out West. I was supposed to go out and exercise, but I did not go as I did not want to inhale that smoke. And this morning it was almost as bad. Why can’t the politicians get their act together and get whatever parts or equipment is needed to get this situation under control? People in West End are getting sick, and it’s just a matter of time before some die of cancer and other illnesses due to this unending smoke.

    Like 20
    • @West End Resident says:

      We are screwed weather we stay in our homes or go out. Whatever level we breathe it in, our environment is strongly polluted. As you so rightfully stated, it is only a matter of time. The increase of cancer and environmentally inducted respitory malfunctions are going to eventually be evident in increasing numbers. The outrage should have started years ago. Anyway, in the ‘now’, there need to be an uprising.

      911 was nearly 20 years ago, and people up to today are still dying from the effect of that disaster.

      We take too many things for joke, as if misfortune is for other people and countries and not us. This is self inflicted. Show me a country that don’t have trash? It is part of life, but take pattern of the countries that dispose of theirs in the best environmentally friendly way, and I show you a healthy country.

      Like 15
  12. Just my Thought says:

    Maybe the Government can find a large patch of land and turn it into a landfill.When the garbage is dumped, the garbage is steamed roll flat in the ground and covered with dirt or sand everytime the garbage truck dump the garbage at the landfill. The only pest you might have is seagulls. I would prefer to have the Seagulls flying around than toxic smoke.

    Like 17
    Dislike 1
    • Yep says:

      I agree with you and it needs to be done ASAP. The Pock Wood Pond solution is no longer working at all, it’s not suitable for a landfill.

      Like 15
  13. Kling says:

    Where is the Premier or his Deputy, everyone is silent while we die, I am having to sleep in a mask.

    Like 13
    Dislike 1
    • Angry says:

      The mask is just a bandaid. They are killing the people down West. Every one want Government position and don’t know their A** from the top of their heads. I agree, invest in some heavy duty steam rollers and compress the garbage into the ground each time garbage is dumped. That would stop the out break of fire and smoke at the landfill. Take some of the money that is being wasted on new vehicles for people in Government to be plecking off in looking like monkeys see horse flip and fix the F***ing problem. Don’t get S**t twisted, you might be in Government but that don’t mean that you are that important. People in the West dying from cancer,little innocent children suffering from breathing problems and the D**n Government don’t give a S**t. A bunch of d**n monkeys running Government.

      Like 22
      • @Angry says:

        You are correct. Let the F***ers use the vehicles they were using or let them spend their own D**n money. Driving around in nice rides while innocent people is getting sick from toxic poisoning. Ok, the Premier needs a official vehicle and I am not talking about him. You people in the West have to all ban together and demand the Government do something. You put them in office, “YOU”, the people is their employer,they work for you the people. Don’t let them forget that. It breaks my heart for the people and children in the West. They deserve better.

    • Hate to say it says:

      All it takes is one time, one day that fire is going to get so out of control they are going to have to get help from States in the United States to know how to get things under control. Why is it that these nitwits can’t figure out what to do. Oh, forget, to many chiefs and no Indians running things.

      Like 19
  14. Even the engines says:

    Imagine of engines can’t handle the smoke, what is going on in our bodies. Father help us. We going all appear good for a while. Then come flu symptoms, and tis flu season and drink some bush tea and rub down. Then lo and behold all hell is breaking loose. It don’t happen one time. You know dat part about …then come sudden destruction? I aint live west, but I live here. That’s enough for me. Not because we are not in the smug don’t mean we not inhaling it and its not affecting the rest of us. Don’t mind the direction of the wind alone. The effect of this whole thing is going be bigger than us, and money nor politics aint going be able to buy life, no matter who we think we are

    Like 16
    Dislike 1
  15. Just asking says:

    Should I consider contacting CNN and exposing this problem. Lot’s of Americans visit the BVI and I am quite sure CNN would be intrested. If that is what it takes,then so be it. I will be the silent advocate for the people in the West.

    Like 18
  16. Secrets says:

    There’s a forever burning firing under all that garbage, we need help and ppl in that department know it! The west side of Tortola is a danger zone!

    Like 11
    • Eu citizen says:

      All of BVI is in danger of loosing it all.
      No more money laundering very soon, no more good number of tourists. But, a lot of cruise ship trash to burn. Just make sure the cruisers stay east of Pockwood Pond. And hope that nobody reveals nature’s dirty little secret on Trip Advisors.

  17. Hmm says:

    You know what could happen if that fire reach those holding tanks? That’s explosion could reach delta and all h**l break lose down there! All garbage haulers please go on strike until the government find a solution! It’s dangerous to be on that hill risking yall lives!

    Like 10
    Dislike 1
  18. So correct says:

    It is already a hot climate Island, you are so correct.If a spark hit those tanks, it will level that whole area. This is really serious. Whoever is in charge you better fix this problem and stop playing Russian Roulette with people lives.

  19. Managing director says:

    Recycling is the only solution
    …Alkebulanmindsrecycling@gmail.com. a local bvi corporation being avoided…what can masks do for the children, when will an ezplanation be given? Recycling is the only option. Not usurp the word recycling like it has been for years now!

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