A petition initiated by residents of the First District to demand a speedy solution to the almost daily landfill fires at Pockwood Pond has garnered close to 600 signatures.
The petition on 'change.org' was started on Thursday, April 20, 2023, and had 583 signatures at the time of publication of this article on April 23, 2023.
This comes on the heels of a protest at the House of Assembly by affected residents of the First District on April 17, 2023.
A landfill fire at Pockwood Pond last night, April 22, 2023.
Gov’t has failed to protest health of people- petition
According to the petition, open burning of waste is a dangerous and avoidable practice, and the risks include a wide range of short- and long-term health problems.
It said this “abhorrent practice” implicates the Government of the Virgin Islands
, as it violates its laws to protect its Belongers’ and residents’ health and well-being.
“There is significant scientific evidence to support the stated consequences on the health of persons exposed to the emissions from open burning on human health. These include but are not limited to the exposure of fine particulates such as dioxins, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls, which have been linked to heart disease, cancer, skin diseases, asthma, and respiratory illnesses.
“The dangers of open burning of waste are further compounded by the fact that the Virgin Islands
lacks comprehensive systems to properly dispose of industrial waste, and healthcare waste, which is being mixed with the municipal waste stream.”
After a handful of residents of the First
District decided to turn up at the House of Assembly (HoA) on April 17,
2023, to protest the frequent open burning at Pockwood Pond, Minister
for Health and Social Development Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8), 3rd from
right, responded with an apology and a promise to resolve the issues
promptly. Landfill fires; however, continue to take place.
‘Highly toxic chemicals’ ending up in cistern water
The petition highlighted that the “highly toxic chemicals” produced from open burning affect agriculture and livestock by settling on crops, ending up in cistern water, water table, beaches, and waterways which eventually end up in food, on skin, and in our bodies, thereby adversely affecting our health.
According to the petition, the belongers and residents of the First Electoral District demand: A comprehensive proposed plan of action to address this issue including immediate, midterm, and long-term solutions; An audience with the Minister of Health and Social Development to hear our concerns and advise on the proposed way forward; Provide official advice to the public on how to personally mitigate the effects in the short term; Cessation of the open burning at the Municipal incinerator in Pockwood Pond; And offer an official public apology to the Belongers and residents of the First Electoral District.
Health Minister Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) had apologised to the people of the First District but the opening burning has continued.
In fact, thick smoke from a landfill fire last night covered the Pockwood Pond area and was also felt in the First District.
According to the petition, open burning
of waste is a dangerous and avoidable practice, and the risks include a
wide range of short- and long-term health problems.
Hon Penn the expert?
It has also been revealed that a proposed plan by former Health Minister Hon Carvin Malone (AL) for mini incinerators to tackle the current waste management issues was recently shut down by Hon Penn, who decided to go against the experts and has instead opted to purchase a new plant, which means residents would have to put up with the open burning for even longer.
According to Incumbent District Nine Representative Hon Vincent O. Wheatley, plans to order 4 incinerators based on recommendations made by consultancy company Wood Group UK Limited were stopped by Hon Penn.
Hon Penn had referred to the plan as nonsense and “band-aid fixes”.
See link to Petition here.