Garbage Trucks or Health Haz­ards?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Alicia Valasse

Ifeel cer­tain many read­ing this have been blasted by the dizzy­ing stench of garbage trucks in the early morn­ing. Some may even have found them­selves stuck in mid­day traf­fic be­hind a City Coun­cil truck. The foul odour quickly in­vades transit buses, nearby of­fices and schools, and af­fects street ven­dors. Even sleep­ing ba­bies are not safe from the smell of garbage trucks as they go by.

Re­cently, I took my com­plaint to the folks at the Saint Lu­cia Solid Waste Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (SLSWMA) as well as the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Health. This af­ter I had pe­rused a con­tract be­tween the au­thor­ity and waste col­lec­tors. The last-men­tioned depart­ment re­ferred me to the first named. The of­fi­cer agreed to talk to me only af­ter I’d guar­an­teed anonymity.

I pre­sented a copy of the ear­lier men­tioned con­tract and pointed to the clause that said: “Garbage trucks must be washed and thor­oughly dis­in­fected ev­ery day and should have at least one broom and shovel at all times to clean up waste that may be spilt or scat­tered—ac­ci­den­tally or oth­er­wise—dur­ing the col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion process.”

Clearly this is not hap­pen­ing but I was given no good rea­son why.

The con­tract also states that the con­trac­tor should equip the ve­hi­cles with drainage tanks to cap­ture wa­ter from waste to pre­vent spillage on the streets. Fur­ther, the tank must be emp­tied regularly at the land­fill. The SLSWMA’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive said: “Our garbage in Saint Lu­cia con­tains a lot of wa­ter and the hold­ing tank is not de­signed to pick up so much wa­ter.”

So, the cit­i­zenry re­mains hostage to the stench as­so­ci­ated with garbage trucks and their spillages.

Ac­cord­ing to the SLSWMA spokesper­son, garbage col­lec­tion be­gins at 7am un­til the col­lec­tion is fin­ished, ex­cept in the city where there is a nightly col­lec­tion ser­vice. How­ever, the du­ra­tion of the col­lec­tion de­pends on the num­ber of ve­hic­u­lar break­downs, me­chan­i­cal prob­lems be­ing a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence.

I talked with a con­trac­tor op­er­at­ing in the is­land’s north. He said garbage col­lec­tion nor­mally starts at six in the morn­ing and ends at two in the af­ter­noon but also de­pends on the num­ber of break­downs. When asked about the ex­is­tence of pol­icy or clauses in the con­tract that speak to the op­er­at­ing hours, the an­swer was sim­ply: “There is none.”

Is it any won­der, then, that some cit­i­zens are con­fused about the op­er­at­ing hours of the garbage trucks and what might be a suit­able time to place garbage at the road­side for col­lec­tion?

The SLSWMA ad­vises that it can be con­tacted if any­one ob­serves the con­trac­tors be­hav­ing in a man­ner that causes harm to the en­vi­ron­ment and that there are penal­ties for de­fault­ers. But with so many bla­tant acts of garbage vi­o­la­tions be­ing caused by those con­tracted to clean up the mess, we re­ally must won­der.

From my per­spec­tive, it’s as if a run­away garbage truck has been al­lowed to run amok all over the is­land leav­ing in its wake a mal­odor­ous stench. If only those in au­thor­ity would turn off the AC units in their homes and of­fices and roll down the win­dows of their air-con­di­tioned tax­payer-funded ve­hi­cles, then they would re­al­ize that the scent out there is any­thing but rosy.

Who is pay­ing at­ten­tion to the qual­ity of ser­vice pro­vided by garbage col­lec­tors?

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