PHILIPSBURG – Minister of VROMI Christophe Emmanuel addressed members of the media in Wednesday’s, July 19, Council of Ministers Press Briefing.
He first tackled “the situation that happened a few weeks ago on the landfill, where it went viral. Everyone saw a sewage struck or septic truck pumping waste on the landfill, and a lot of questions were being asked. No answers were forthcoming at the time,” Minister Emmanuel began.
“It was brought to my attention that the operator in question of the truck was all in their legal right to do what they were doing at the time on the landfill. I see some of the reporters are shocked yes, and why do I say that? We look at the video and we make assumptions, and figure that it is what it is. At the time, the gentleman was working for the Ministry of VROMI, was working for government, doing a job cleaning a drainage pit at the time down in the Dutch Quarter, Belvedere area, that needed to be cleaned, that was clogged with all the rain that is coming, the hurricane season. That is what the operator was doing at the time,” the Minister explained.
“We have some drains that have this sludge, this sump, this grease. And what would happen is they would go to the site, and would have to pump it out with high pressure to loosen all the gunk, the mud, and goo to clean the trenches out, and then have to suck it back into the truck…It will look from one’s point of view that it is raw sewage. It may even have a smell, but that type of material that contains oil and grease cannot be dumped at the sewage plant because it will kill the bacteria that is needed to dissolve the feces and all the stuff in the plant. So a location on the landfill has been designated where this type of material is disposed of,” the Minister further informed.
“In addition to that they have to pay to dump this material on the landfill. They go to the Receivers, they pay their 30 guilders, they get their ticket and it’s disposed of. Is it a practice that should continue? No. It should not. Is it something that we are looking into? Yes. It is. However, it has been going on for the past 20 years. So it’s not something I have been created today,” Minister Emmanuel continued.
With that explanation, the Minister warned “the many individuals who have the number plate, have the color of the truck, have pictures of the individual, and I’m saying to those individuals, who keep sending him messages and pulling up on the side and driving up to him, please stop it. It is harassment and this is to let you know that the individual was working for Government cleaning a drainage.”
“We are looking into the individuals that made a video because we were told that some of them are government employees. So that is another chapter that we are looking into. Also a complaint and a possible court case can come out of it that I’m trying to solve before it reach to that stage,” the Minister informed.
“So, I just wanted to let everyone know the situation in the case. That it’s not what it looked like,” he said.
Next, the Minister mentioned having a discussion with VROMI Head Claudius Buncamper, on the incident at the Princess Juliana Airport where a woman lost her life. “We were looking into ways on how we can sort of prevent the unfortunate situation that we had about a week ago with a young lady who had lost her life with something we would call a thrill. Many visitors would come to the island to see when planes are taking off from the airport, and the blast and holding on to the fence, as much as it is not allowed, there signs all over, but it doesn’t matter how many signs are there. People would still find it something thrilling to do. So we have come up with a possible solution on how we are going to go about what the airport needs,” Minister Emmanuel explained.
“We are looking at an alternative route, but when we get more details into it, it will be forthcoming to the public. We’ll look at pushing the fence a little bit more, reroute the road possibly…There will be no more concrete divider in the middle of the road, nor would there be a concrete piece that stops the sand from coming on. So all those things that we are looking into this present time, because at some point in time, it will be on the government’s responsibility to do something…First, it was one of the injured with half a face got damaged and now we have a death, and that is something that is not a good image for us,” the Minister continued.
Then, the Minister informed that “the Council of Ministers yesterday in our meeting are all aware that I have signed an MOU with a waste-to-energy company. We have reached to the stage where they are looking into dealing with our garbage problem, not just the energy part of it, but the garbage problem, and this present moment they have also reviewed a concession, and also a power purchase agreement on how we are going to move forward with remediating the landfill, dealing with the garbage issue that we have on island which we call the dump, and making it nonexistent.”
“I believe we have hit the right position right now with the company that we are talking to, and I would like to tell the people that we are working diligently in solving this problem,” he said.
In addition, he mentioned that the situation with car wrecks that was overflowing into the road is being handled. Persons removing car wrecks should not to dump cars or put cars wrecks in that location anymore. “We have designated a position or spot on the landfill,” he stated.
“So you would see one location for all sorts of concrete material, another location for car wrecks and another location for the white material. No one is allowed to dump car wrecks, white material. Those materials should not to be dumped in front and placed there anymore,” the Minister continued.
“We also had a meeting with individuals who will be removing all the wrecks that are there also, and that should be starting anytime soon. So I think that we are on the right track in terms of dealing with a number of situations that have been plaguing the island for some time,” he stated.
“I’m committed to seeing the process of dealing with our garbage problem remediating the hill, bringing it down to a suitable level that. We all would sort of enjoy not having what is there anymore. It’s going to take some time. It took us 40 years to be where we are with this landfill, and I’m saying it will take us at least 15 to 20 years to bring it along to a suitable level. It’s a work in process, going to take some time, but it is nothing that we haven’t done before…It is something that I will see through and I believe the people of St. Maarten deserve better when it comes to how we deal with our garbage on the island,” Minister Emmanuel concluded.