Jamaica: Protecting the Air Through Law Across Borders

Riverton dump fire

Jamaica’s infamous Riverton City Dump, the only authorized dump for the capital city of Kingston, caught fire March 11, sending hundreds to the hospital and closing 50 schools and over 30 businesses.

The Riverton dump burns regularly, but the March fire was of historic proportions.

“Jamaica cannot afford another dump fire like this one,” says Diana McCaulay, Director of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). “It makes people sick and closes schools and businesses. We can prevent these fires.”

Jamaica’s Ministry of Health issued an air quality report, but JET challenged its lack of transparency and inadequate safeguards for public health in Tuesday’s Jamaica Observer.

Diana called on ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik this week to critique the Ministry’s air quality analysis. Mark found that the analysis failed to look at toxic oxygenated VOC’s [volatile organic compounds], overlooked levels of benzene that exceeded short-term standards, and failed to note that short-term exposure to carcinogens can possibly cause cancer.

“The high levels of acrid smoke from the smoldering waste have likely caused premature deaths in the crowded Kingston neighborhoods adjacent to the dump,” says Mark.

Diana says she will use Mark’s findings to convince the Government of Jamaica to find a long-term solution to waste management in Jamaica.

Diana and her colleagues at JET have collaborated with ELAW for more than 10 years to give communities in Jamaica a voice and protect the fragile coast from devastating development projects.

“I am everlastingly grateful to be part of ELAW,” says JET Director Diana McCaulay.

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Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide