Garbage Trucks or Health Hazards?

I feel certain many reading this have been blasted by the dizzying stench of garbage trucks in the early morning. Some may even have found themselves stuck in midday traffic behind a City Council truck. The foul odour quickly invades transit buses, nearby offices and schools, and affects street vendors. Even sleeping babies are not safe from the smell of garbage trucks as they go by.

Who is paying attention to the quality of service provided by garbage collectors?

Who is paying attention to the quality of service provided by garbage collectors?

Recently, I took my complaint to the folks at the Saint Lucia Solid Waste Management Authority (SLSWMA) as well as the Department of Environmental Health. This after I had perused a contract between the authority and waste collectors. The last-mentioned department referred me to the first named. The officer agreed to talk to me only after I’d guaranteed anonymity.

I presented a copy of the earlier mentioned contract and pointed to the clause that said: “Garbage trucks must be washed and thoroughly disinfected every day and should have at least one broom and shovel at all times to clean up waste that may be spilt or scattered—accidentally or otherwise—during the collection and transportation process.”

Clearly this is not happening but I was given no good reason why.

The contract also states that the contractor should equip the vehicles with drainage tanks to capture water from waste to prevent spillage on the streets. Further, the tank must be emptied regularly at the landfill. The SLSWMA’s representative said: “Our garbage in Saint Lucia contains a lot of water and the holding tank is not designed to pick up so much water.” So, the citizenry remains hostage to the stench associated with garbage trucks and their spillages.

According to the SLSWMA spokesperson, garbage collection begins at 7am until the collection is finished, except in the city where there is a nightly collection service. However, the duration of the collection depends on the number of vehicular breakdowns, mechanical problems being a regular occurrence.

I talked with a contractor operating in the island’s north. He said garbage collection normally starts at six in the morning and ends at two in the afternoon but also depends on the number of breakdowns. When asked about the existence of policy or clauses in the contract that speak to the operating hours, the answer was simply: “There is none.”

Is it any wonder, then, that some citizens are confused about the operating hours of the garbage trucks and what might be a suitable time to place garbage at the roadside for collection?

The SLSWMA advises that it can be contacted if anyone observes the contractors behaving in a manner that causes harm to the environment and that there are penalties for defaulters. But with so many blatant acts of garbage violations being caused by those contracted to clean up the mess, we really must wonder.

From my perspective, it’s as if a runaway garbage truck has been allowed to run amok all over the island leaving in its wake a malodorous stench. If only those in authority would turn off the AC units in their homes and offices and roll down the windows of their air-conditioned taxpayer-funded vehicles, then they would realize that the scent out there is anything but rosy.

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