Residents rage on

Stories by Latoya Burnham

bsfireresidentsvoteIt will not end here.

That was the strong warning of one St. Thomas resident to B’s Recycling and Government as she promised that legal action was coming over the impact on her health and home following the fire at the recycling plant three weeks ago.

The woman, who asked that her name not be printed, told a town hall meeting at Lester Vaughan School last night that she was “irate”, “annoyed” and like most other residents in the area, felt “extremely disrespected” by events following the fire on March 25.

Identifying herself initially as “an irate resident” from Bagatelle who has lived in the area since 1979, she said she believed that “someone somewhere proclaimed St. Thomas a dumping ground” and “what is wrong is that they see us as trash heaps”.

Stating that she was home ill and heavily medicated on the day of the fire, having suffered pains from an accident, she said that she was awoken from sleep when she could not breathe and had to be gasping for breath. It was only after asking a neighbour what was happening, she said, that she was directed to look out above her house at the thick, black smoke emanating from the fire that started in an area of the recycling plant.

Claiming she had suffered vomiting and burning nose and eyes, the woman said she had to inhale the fumes for “72 hours straight”, since as a result of her injuries she was unable to leave her home and furthermore had nowhere to go.

“I have not heard it said…, but those fumes lodged themselves in my curtains, my clothes, my furniture, my carpet, everything that was a material. So the fumes might have gone from outside, but inside my house I still can smell it. My verandah was filled with ashes, my rafters, boards were blackened; my car is red, it was black and gray and whenever you try to clean… it like it make it worse. It leave stains and all sorts of stuff. Somebody has to pay for that.

Moderator Selwyn Brooks.
Moderator Selwyn Brooks.

“My main concern is that I want to know the possible long term health issues I might face from those fumes. I don’t want no cover up. I don’t want you to say it isn’t when it is just to avoid having to deal with me in court, because it is going there,” she stated, adding that she was in contact with her lawyer on the matter.

She argued too that what had made the situation even worse was “the scant way” in which residents who suffered from the fire were treated as if it was no big deal. When fires of this nature occurred in places like the US, she noted that officials from whatever company is associated or responsible showed sympathy and were seen in the districts ensuring residents were okay — not so with this situation.

“The reason I believe I have to take this action is because every day I deal with conflict resolution, every day and one of the things you do not do, you do not hide from conflict. If there is an issue, you as a responsible corporate company should be more sympathetic and empathetic. You should be seen, and if you yourself do not have any internal compassion, hire a PR firm to do it for you because you have only aggravated me by your less than concerned manner.”

The Bagatelle resident said she was confused how a No Smoking bill could be passed that did not deal with issues like indiscriminate burning. Furthermore, she argued it was “despicable” that in 2013 there were no laws to deal with the impacts of these matters or fires like the chemical one at B’s on the environment and health, or to ensure that there was some element of compensation or guidelines on sanctions for breaches.

“Do not let this go,” she said, hinting that she would be prepared as well to join with anyone else who wanted to pursue the legal angle but urged them to be prepared.

In issues like this, she told residents, they had to have “the fortitude” to go the distance to ensure their rights were protected, noting that society was very reactive to issues after they occurred.

This one, she said, was a national issue, adding: “I know I will get results and the best approach is a collective approach.” latoyaburnham@barbadostoday.bb

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