HOA Statement: Minister of Health and Social Development – Update on Solid Waste Disposal Site at Pockwood Pond, Tortola

STATEMENT BY THE HONORABLE MARLON PENN

MINISTER OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
DURING THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH SESSION OF THE FOURTH

VIRGIN ISLANDS ASSEMBLY HOUSE
THURSDAY 26E MAY 2022

SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL SITE UPDATE AT POCKWOOD POND, TORTOLA

Madam Speaker, large fires occurred at the Pockwood Pond dump on the evening of May 16e and the morning of May 22n/a, 2022, respectively. Fortunately, no one was injured and no public or private equipment was damaged on site. I am sadly aware, however, that smoke from the fires may have been a source of discomfort for residents on the west side of Tortola.

While the exact cause of the landfill fire which occurred on 16e of May has not been established, the Department of Waste Management discovered evidence of people illegally accessing the landfill after hours and using torches or similar devices to recover copper and other metals from discarded items. Given the high concentrations of methane gas at the site, any form of intense heat applied nearby increases the likelihood of fires breaking out.

Madam President, I urge anyone who engages in this type of activity to cease and desist immediately. Your actions not only harm the safety of operations at the landfill, but also have a detrimental impact on the community at large.

Solving this problem also requires a more proactive approach. I will therefore seek additional resources to devote to enhanced security measures, such as reinstalling security cameras throughout the property and providing after-hours security coverage. I would also like to remind anyone listening that the Pockwood Pond Solid Waste Disposal Facility 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 p.m.

With regard to the fire which occurred on 22n/a of May, Madam President, the Department of Waste Management determined that it resulted from spontaneous combustion when waste delivered to the site that had not yet been processed was ignited by smoldering hot spots underground. Madam Speaker, in order to reduce the incidence of spontaneous combustion at the landfill, I am seeking additional resources to meet the need for proper day-to-day monitoring of site operations. We are also seeking to divert a greater volume of combustible materials from the waste stream by expanding our recycling programs in conjunction with Green VI and other partners.

Madam President, the incinerator remains offline due to a mechanical breakdown and extensive damage caused by a fire which took place on 14e of February this year. This fire destroyed the incinerator’s main control panel as well as its electrical system and contributed to material fatigue in some sections of the building. The Department of Health and Social Development is in the process of procuring the necessary spare parts from the equipment manufacturer, Consutech Systems LLC. The company had previously been contracted to supply a replacement quench tank and ash conveyor, as well as a heat exchanger and three (3) transfer rams; all of this would be needed to bring the incinerator back online. In addition, Madam Speaker, we are arranging to purchase a factory replacement control panel, which is another essential piece of equipment.

Madam President, my team and I spoke with the President of Consutech Systems on the 23rdrd of May and stressed the importance of expediting the delivery of these essential items. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the process of manufacturing, shipping and installing new parts will take several months; especially in light of supply chain disruptions affecting key components.

Madam Speaker, it is more important than ever that all members of the community do their part by reducing the amount of waste generated daily. This can be achieved through simple changes to our lifestyles, such as using reusable bottles or cups, or by using reusable bags or boxes when grocery shopping. Residents of Tortola, in particular, are encouraged to separate glass, aluminum cans and plastics from their household trash and to use the “We Recycle” bins that are located throughout the island. Among other health and environmental benefits, reducing waste will help minimize pressure on the landfill and ultimately reduce the frequency of fires.

Madam President, I end with a special thank you to the hard working men and women in the Waste Management Department and the wider network of people who work in difficult conditions to keep our territory clean and healthy. Let’s all do our part to support these efforts.

Thank you Madam President.

Joel C. Hicks