STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE MARLON PENN
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
DURING THE THIRD SITTING OF THE FOURTH SESSION OF THE FOURTH
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
THURSDAY, 26TH MAY, 2022
UPDATE ON SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL SITE AT POCKWOOD POND, TORTOLA
Madam Speaker, large fires occurred at the dumpsite in Pockwood Pond on the evening of May 16th and on the morning of May 22nd, 2022, respectively. Fortunately, no one was injured nor were there any damages to public or private equipment on site. I am sadly aware, however, that smoke from the fires may have been a source of discomfort to residents on the western side of Tortola.
While the exact cause of the dumpsite fire that occurred on the 16th of May has not been established, the Department of Waste Management has uncovered evidence of persons illegally accessing the dumpsite after hours and using blowtorches or similar devices to retrieve copper and other metals from discarded items. Given the high concentrations of methane gas on site, any form of intense heat applied in close proximity increases the likelihood of fires erupting.
Madam Speaker, I strongly appeal to anyone engaging in this type of activity to cease and desist immediately. Your actions are not only detrimental to safe operations at the dumpsite, but also have a damaging impact on the wider community.
Addressing this issue also requires a more proactive approach. I will therefore be seeking additional resources to put towards enhanced security measures, such as reinstalling security cameras throughout the property and providing security guard coverage after operating hours. I would also like to remind everyone listening that the solid waste disposal facility at Pockwood Pond is open to the public daily from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Only operators contracted by the Government to collect residential waste will be allowed to enter the facility after 4:00 p.m.
Turning to the fire that occurred on the 22nd of May, Madam Speaker, the Department of Waste Management has determined that it resulted from spontaneous combustion when garbage delivered to the site that had not yet been processed, became ignited by hotspots smoldering underground. Madam Speaker, in order to reduce the incidence of spontaneous combustion at the dumpsite, I am seeking additional resources to meet the need for adequate daily supervision of the operations on site. We are also seeking to divert a larger volume of combustible materials from the waste stream by expanding our recycling programmes in collaboration with Green VI and other partners.
Madam Speaker, the Incinerator remains offline due to mechanical failure and extensive damages caused by a fire that took place on the 14th of February this year. That fire destroyed the incinerator’s main control panel along with its electrical system, and contributed to material fatigue in certain sections of the building. The Ministry of Health and Social Development is in the process of procuring the necessary replacement parts from the equipment manufacturer, Consutech Systems LLC. The company had already been contracted to supply a replacement Quench Tank and Ash Conveyor, along with a Heat Exchanger and three (3) Transfer Rams; all of which would be required to bring the Incinerator back online. Additionally, Madam Speaker, we are taking the necessary steps to purchase a factory replacement control panel, which is another critical piece of equipment.
Madam Speaker my team and I spoke with the President of Consutech Systems on the 23rd of May and emphasized the importance of expediting the delivery of these critical items. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the process of fabricating, shipping, and installing the new parts will take several months; particularly in light of disruptions in the supply chain affecting key components.
Madam Speaker, it is more important than ever before for everyone in the community to do our part by reducing the amount of waste being generated on a daily basis. This can be achieved through simple changes to our lifestyles such as using reusable bottles or cups, or by making use of reusable bags or boxes when grocery shopping. Residents on Tortola, especially, are encouraged to separate glass, aluminum cans, and plastics from their household waste and utilize the “We Recycle” bins that are located throughout the island. Among other health and environmental benefits, reducing waste will help minimize pressure being placed on the dumpsite, and ultimately help reduce the occurrence of fires.
Madam Speaker, I close by extending a special word of thanks to the hardworking men and women of the Department of Waste Management, and the wider network of persons toiling under difficult conditions to keep our Territory clean and healthy. Let us all do our part to support these efforts.
Thank you Madam Speaker.