Garbage contractor dumps rubbish on Demerara Road

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo/Angelo Marcelle

After videos circulated on social media showing a blue garbage truck dumping its trash on the roadside, regional corporations and the Solid Waste Management Company Ltd were quick to respond.

A woman stopped her car to make the recording and a man wearing a T-shirt with the logo “GCL” spoke with her.

In the video she said, “They throwing rubbish there – that is wrong. Watch the state of this place. Watch it good. That is not the dump. All yuh can’t be throwing that there. We disappointed with allyuh. We fed up of this.”

The man in the video said, “Woah, family, hear what going on,” before filming was stopped.

SWMCOL posted on its Facebook page that the incident occurred in Claxton Bay, but when CEO Ria Ramdean was contacted, she said it actually occurred on Demerara Road, Arima, and the post should have been removed.

Ramdean said it was not SWMCOL’s responsibility to identify the contractor, as contrzctors are hired by regional corporations. She said the Arima corporation was going to take action.

Newsday contacted the chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo corporation, Henry Awong, because the dumping reportedly took place in Claxton Bay.

He said he was not familiar with the incident, but said garbage had been dumped with increasing regularity in his region. Presuming it was his region, Awong said once there was evidence he would send the municipal police.

Mayor of Arima Cagney Cassimire was contacted next, based on the advice from SWMCOL.

Cassimire said he too was unfamiliar with the Demerara case, but concurred that indiscriminate dumping had been occurring more frequently.

“That is not my area, ” Cassimire said, “but we knew people were dumping there, but we could not catch them.”

Cassimire said Demerara Road was under the purview of the Tunapuna/Piarco corporation. His suggestion to tackle the problem was installing cameras to gather evidence and enforce the $1,000 fine on perpetrators.

Next, Newsday contacted the chairman of the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation Kwasi Robinson.

He said he knew of the video and an investigation had been launched. He added SWMCOL had contacted the contractor to remove the garbage when the video began circulating.

But, he said, “We are conducting our own internal investigation and we will take action against the offending contractor, once we find it to be so.

“(From) one of the videos, it appeared that there was an emblem of a contractor. We just have to confirm that it was that contractor.”

The corporation intends to pursue legal action, so Robinson did not want to name the contractor. He said he would take action once the investigation was completed.

Robinson said, “The offending contractor has some of the most lucrative contracts in the corporation. Our annual costs for garbage pick-up is between $45 and $60 million a year, and they are one of the larger service providers, but I can’t say the exact amount.”

Asked what measures could be put in place to stop the dumping of refuse, Robinson said, “Hire better contractors.

“It is very unfortunate that companies that are contracted to clean up garbage are the ones dumping it. It is unacceptable and cannot continue. There are multiple places that this is occurring, and at least this time we have actual footage of the culprits.

“We are paying millions of dollars to these people to clean garbage, and what you are doing is creating more garbage and a health crisis. This is the problem in the society, where people who are benefiting the most are the ones who turn around and make it uncomfortable for the burgesses to live.

“Because these contractors are not dumping where they live. They going on Demerara Road because they feel poor people living there and Racecourse Road, because it might be squatters and dumping there. They not dumping in Valsayn, or in Millennium Lakes. They dumping where poor people live. It’s wickedness.”

Pressed about the meaning of GCL, Robinson refused to comment, as that “might prejudice” the actions he intended to take.

When Newsday researched GCL, it appeared to be the logo of Gopaul and Company Ltd.

Newsday called Gopaul and Company and was directed to its garbage company. The respondent then said anyone able to answer had already left. Called a second time, a security guard answered and confirmed that the dumping incident involved Gopaul and Company Ltd.

Later on Friday, Gopaul and Company issued a statement acknowledging what had happened.

The release said the driver was recently employed and was still on probation. It said when managers questioned him, he became agitated and quit.

The release said a truck returned to the area to clear up the dumped garbage and other refuse in the area. The company said it did not condone illegal dumping and was working to ensure the incident is not repeated.

Ramdean said, “We are trying to locate the lady who took the video, because we wanted to recognise her effort. And also the corporation wanted to find her too.”

She said it was part of SWMCOL’s corporate social responsibility and wanted to express its gratitude.

Illegal dumping has taken place on the Demerara Road for years, even though the Guanapo landfill is a short distance away. In the 1990s lead waste from a nearby battery factory was dumped in the community. Residents used it to pave their roads and yards, but children in the community soon became sick with lead poisoning, which can lead to anaemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage.