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Russell: Ill-advised to return to Jubilee Gardens homes

  • Raising Awareness about the Bahamas Landfill activist Heather Carey points out the massive smoke cloud emerging from the New Providence Landfill in Jubilee Gardens yesterday.

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Mar 17, 2017

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National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Captain Stephen Russell yesterday suggested it would be ill-advised for residents of Jubilee Gardens to return to their homes, two weeks after a massive blaze at the New Providence Landfill forced them to evacuate the area.

Despite an all-clear not being given, many residents have moved back into their homes.

Officials are still unable to say whether the quality of air in Jubilee Gardens is safe.

“Until the smoke dies completely at the dump site, people going back into those areas who have been suffering respiratory challenges will flare up again,” Russell said.

“We cannot authorize them to go back into the area until the source of the problem is solved.”

On Monday, Environment Minister Ken Dorsett said the government spent $75,000 engaging the services of United States companies GelTech Solutions and Fletcher Air to aid firefighters and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers in fire compression and smoke containment exercises at the landfill.

While a large percentage of the area on fire has been extinguished, the spreading of smoke in Jubilee Gardens and communities throughout New Providence remains a major issue.

Department of Environmental Health Services conducted an air quality assessment on 19 homes closest to the dump and issued a report to NEMA on its findings on Monday.

Russell said a final decision based on these findings has not been made.

He said a second person is needed to sign off on the report from the Department of Environmental Health Services before a decision can be made.

Anthony Ryan, a public analyst at the Department of Environmental Health Services, said yesterday, “It’s difficult to make a definitive decision to say whether or not people can go back into the homes or not, until you would have done more parameters.

“You can’t just do one, one time and then make a decision.

“You have to do a few times and try to get a baseline to understand where this thing is going or what has happened, or if there is smoke still lingering in the homes.

“The tests will probably never end, or will take a long time, but what’s more important than the tests is the remediation of the homes.

“If the remediation of the home is done to satisfaction, within a week or a couple days people can move back in.

Ryan added, “We still don’t know definitely what was carried in the smoke.

“We still don’t know all of the contaminants in the home because you could never get enough equipment that will be able to give you the full story.

“You will get a good idea of what is going on, a very good idea, and you could come very close but again, this will take time.”

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