Residents of San Ignacio and Benque Viejo del Carmen frequently call in to complain about the eyesore that is the dumpsite in the area.

Natalie Novelo reporting…
“On our newscast Friday of last week, we brought to you a story on the irritation people are experiencing in the west, due to the state in which the western sanitary landfill finds itself. Garbage was over-pouring unto the streets causing an eyesore and a nose sore because of the stench. Concerned citizens spoke to Love news and expressed their embarrassment of the condition of the site and also mentioned they were in fear of the health risks it might bring. This week Love News visited Senior Public Health Inspector in the Ministry of Health Central Region, Mark Bernard, to ask of the dangers of dumpsites like the western sanitary landfill:

Mark Bernard – Senior Public Health Inspector
“First of all if the road is narrow and the garbage is on, lying on the side of the road, people tend to go, move out of their lane to go into the other lane to avoid getting a puncture and stuff like that no. So that’s a, there’s a traffic hazard there. The wind can pick up different paper, plastic whatever, obscure somebody who’s driving, potential against road traffic accident.”

Bernard says that garbage also attracts unwanted pests like rats, and flies that may invade nearby homes. Vultures although thought to be harmless, may also cause road traffic accidents when in close proximity to the road. One of the citizens asked us about the risk of water contamination and we addressed the question to Bernard.

Mark Bernard – Senior Public Health Inspector
“Whenever a garbage dump is not planned and depending on the type of soil, you will have the garbage there and you will have the rain come in, you’ll have different chemicals and minerals being dissolved and that is what is called leakage and the sediment is going into the soil and the ground water. It depends on how close the next, the nearest source of water is, but definitely there will be pollution unless engineering measures is taken to prevent that leakage from reaching the ground water, so yes, there is water contamination.”

Then there is the burning of the garbage to get rid of it. Bernard told us about the risks of burning garbage in a dumpsite closely situated to public access.

Mark Bernard – Senior Public Health Inspector
“People who have asthma, who have allergies will definitely be affected. All smoke from garbage dumps should be considered toxic, I mean there are a lot of stuff in there, different chemicals, paint, probably lead, insulation from wiring, plastic, all of those things produce toxic fumes no. If it’s in an environment where people put out clothes and stuff like that again, you wouldn’t want your clothes to absorb that odor nor your furniture inside your house. A dumpsite is generally referred to as open dumping and there are a lot of hazards associated with it because everything gets dumped there, there is no segregation of different chemicals going to different areas, there could be bio-hazardous waste no, so it’s always a potential, it’s a big problem, it’s an expensive problem to address."

During our trip west last week we also visited and spoke to manager of Ka’ana resort who said that among many things it discourages tourism in the area. Mayor of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, John August explained that lack of funds makes it impossible to keep the dumpsite running properly and he mentioned an upcoming project to deal with that. Gilroy Lewis is a Sanitary Engineer and director of the Solid Waste management authority

Gilroy Lewis – Director, Solid Waste Management Authority
“The project in question is the solid waste management project for the western corridor. It’s a four year project financed by the Inter-American Development Bank and the assistance for international development. The total sum of the loan is fourteen million seven hundred and eighty nine thousand U.S. Dollars. The project is slated to commence work sometime this month or early February which is next month. The project has four components, and the, the components that are of relevance to the Western Dumpsite and the Belize City Dumpsite is component number one and component number one of the project has to do with the closure of the Belize City Dumpsite at mile three so that dumpsite will be closed from an engineering point of view and the garbage will be consolidated and it will be covered with twelve inches of clay material and a transfer station will be constructed there. Trucks that collect the garbage from the city will enter into that building and then they will discharge the garbage into forty foot containers and then those containers will be hauled to the mile twenty four Western Highway Regional Sanitary landfill for final disposal. The transfer stations themselves will also have bins for recyclable materials in other words we will have bins for paper, bins for plastic, bins for glass, bins for aluminum cans so if any person would wish to separate those items at their homes and they want to get rid of them, they could take them to the transfer station and they could deposit them in the specific bins that will be designated for each types of those materials. Component two of the project is the Sanitary Land Fill that will be located at mile twenty four on the Western Highway. Component three of the project does the same thing that will be done in Belize City but only for the Western dumpsite that shares San Ignacio, Santa Elena and Benque.”

San Pedro and Caye Caulker will also benefit from transfer stations with the garbage being transferred to the mile twenty-four, Regional Sanitary Landfill. Lewis said that the project is estimated to last about six months before completion.