The issue of garbage removal, in Grand Bahama, post-Hurricane Matthew continues to be a hot button topic, so much so that the Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama, Peter Turnquest, Deputy Leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) raised the matter in the House of Assembly yesterday.
In traversing the island streets, in some communities, vegetative debris remains on the sidewalks of many thoroughfares, some of which has now been contaminated with other forms of debris, including building material and household trash.
Turnquest told colleagues on Wednesday, January 18 that the piles of garbage are creating grave concern and is one that must be addressed sooner, rather than later.
“There is a continuing complaint with respect to the trash pickup in the Freeport area. I know a lot of it has to do with privately owned subdivisions; however, while that may be the case, the reality is, I believe, that the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) as well as the government has a responsibility to ensure that the environment is, in fact, cleaned as soon as possible.
“I believe that we are at the stage now, where those vegetative piles of debris are now being contaminated with hard materials, which is going to make it much more difficult to pick up,” Turnquest said.
“In addition to that, it is creating health hazards in some areas. I wonder whether the government, through its resources, is giving any consideration to having that work done, in the interest of public health and maybe with some view to charging back to these private developers if that so were the case.
“I believe that it is unacceptable that this many weeks following the hurricane, we still have these mounds of debris all over the city.”
Minister of Labor and National Insurance Shane Gibson, who has responsibility for Hurricane Restoration and Relief Programs, in response to Turnquest’s statement said, “As for the clean-up, I spoke to MP for Pineridge (Dr. Michael Darville) on that. We are looking into it as well, because it is not right. The Port Authority is responsible for the Port area; obviously, they will not take the same position as the government and just spend monies cleaning up. We have spent in excess of $10 million on Nassau alone.
“We have a number of sites where we have the debris still piling up; every time we clear a site people dump on them again.
“I do not know how long we can continue to go back over-and over-again. I do not know what is happening, but in any case we are spending a lot of money. We shouldn’t have to spend money in the port area that is their responsibility. They collect all of the profits, they generate all of the revenue; they are responsible for cleaning it up (Port area).”
With respect to private developers and their obligation to maintain their areas Gibson noted, “At the end of the day, Dr. Darville and I will meet with the team and it may be decided that we will have to just look at cleaning it up and finding a way to bill them back, or have them reimburse the government. We cannot allow the debris to stay there indefinitely, I agree with that.”
Also speaking to the matter raised, Darville said, “Under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, after the hurricane, yes the vegetative debris was moved by the Grand Bahama Port Authority and now we have building materials.
“The question now is, whether the Port is responsible for moving building materials from the site as well? I along with the minister responsible have had discussions with the GBPA, but I am in agreement with the Member from East Grand Bahama (Turnquest), as well as the Member from Golden Gates (Gibson) that we cannot allow this to happen where the city becomes filthy again.
“We have cleaned up in the area of East and West Grand Bahama, Pinder’s Point, Lewis Yard, three to four passes, and as fast as you clean up, another batch of debris is there. But this is going to be an ongoing effort and we will continue to ensure that we remove the debris to prevent any environmental issues that could effect the residents in those communities,” concluded Darville.
Published Thursday, January 19, 2017