July 19, 2005 – The fire at the Anguilla landfill Monday was a bit of an anniversary fire: It was almost exactly a year ago that the Department of Public Works was reporting fire flare-ups and smoke problems at the landfill.
But this year's fire was not nearly as bad as the one in July of 2002. That blaze took firefighters almost three days to extinguish.
Warrington Chapman, director of the Solid Waste Authority, said the fire that started about 1 p.m. Monday was put out about 11 a.m. Tuesday. He said the fire started in an area designated for scrap metal dumping.
However, he added, "Because of years of indiscriminate dumping, there was other stuff down below — tires, oil, even some batteries."
Chapman, who has been in his position since December, said the authority plans to formalize a fire-prevention plan for the landfill this fall.
Fire has not been the only problem at the landfill.
In 2001, the Department of Public Works was ordered by the federal government to submit a plan spelling out how it would protect the groundwater under the landfill from liquid pollutants leaching into the ground and as runoff into the sea.
The EPA fined DPW in 2002 when that plan was not forthcoming. (See "EPA Imposes Fines for Anguilla Inaction").
Chapman said Tuesday "the ultimate goal is to close the landfill down." He said that should happen in three to four years. Speaking about a new site for a landfill, he said, "No one wants it in their backyard, so the community is going to have to come together with a solution."
He said he liked the idea of burning trash and converting it to energy, but admitted that might be easier said then done. A small power co-generator has suggested to the Water and Power Authority that it can do it. Because of a recent bill passed by the Senate, WAPA might be negotiating with that company.
In the meantime, Chapman said the authority is moving forward with its plans to cap Anguilla and to set up a system to monitor leachate from the dump.
Then there are the problems concerning the airport being next door to the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. Since 1996, the FAA has been telling the V.I. Port Authority, which owns the landfill property, to close the facility down because of the dangers to aircraft posed by smoke from burning debris and scavenging birds and dogs.
In 1998, it set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2002, for doing so. The deadline came and went. Then in 2003, the FAA decided to give the landfill a four-year reprieve. (See "FAA Reportedly Gives 4-year Anguilla Reprieve").
The smoke was so bad from Monday's fire that Health Commissioner Darlene A. Carty urged asthma sufferers and residents with other respiratory illnesses to take precautions against smoke inhalation.
Chapman said Tuesday that the cause of the fire is still under investigation. He estimated that the area has been used for a dump around 50 years.
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