Garbage piled up by the roadside in the eastern districts over the festive period with equipment failure blamed for more delays in residential collections.
Communities from Newlands to North Side complained of late pick-ups in the aftermath of Christmas, with waste lying uncollected on the roadside, in some cases for several days.
The Department of Environmental Health had indicated in the run-up to Christmas that it was on top of the issue, which has been an intermittent problem for the past 18 months. A mechanical problem with one of the collection trucks was blamed for the setback, and crews have been working overtime to catch up with missed routes.
Dwayne Seymour, the minister with responsibility for the issue, defended the recent record of the department, saying there had been no problems reported in the two months before Christmas. He acknowledged there had been late collections over the holiday due to broken equipment, but said he had been assured collections were back on track by Monday. In the longer term, he said he was looking at “all options,” including possibly buying new trucks.
Al Suckoo, legislator for Newlands, said he had been inundated with complaints over the holidays from residents whose garbage had not been collected.
He said his constituents had put their garbage out Thursday as directed, but it had not been picked up. The problem seemed to be rife throughout the eastern districts, even in Minister Seymour’s own Bodden Town East constituency, Mr. Suckoo said.
“At least we know it is not political, as I had people from the minister’s own constituency calling to complain.”
Images taken by Mr. Suckoo show garbage cans piled high with trash, including packaging from Christmas presents and other additional waste associated with the festivities. In some areas he said stray dogs and cats had ripped open the trash bags and litter was strewn around the neighborhood.
Mr. Suckoo said it was important that garbage was collected quickly over the holiday season because of the extra waste. The Opposition deputy leader was among several legislators to raise concerns about persistent problems with garbage collection in a recent meeting of the Legislative Assembly.
At the time, Minister Seymour said an influx of new temporary workers had been hired to help deal with the problem. He also highlighted plans to use low-risk prisoners to assist on routes, though this project has not yet fully launched.
Mr. Suckoo said it was disappointing that there had been no long-term fix.
“I give the minister credit for acknowledging the problem and for saying that it is unacceptable, but at some point it has to be fixed,” he said.
“If it is a staffing issue, get it resolved. If it is an equipment issue, then get that fixed. This has been going on for 18 months. Somebody needs to put their foot down and get this resolved.”
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said similar issues had been reported in his district. He added that he had observed bins overflowing in every area from East End to George Town, and at the recycling depot at Kirk Plaza.
“Government is boasting about millions of dollars in excess revenue, but we can’t seem to collect the garbage,” he said.
Mr. Miller does not support using prisoners on the trucks, but suggested the unemployed people recruited for the community enhancement program in the run-up to Christmas could have been used to supplement collection crews over the busy season.
“We had 300-400 people working in the NiCE program before Christmas. Are you telling me there weren’t 20 of those that could have been hired to help with collections?”
Mr. Miller said the problem had gone on for too long, and suggested heads should roll in the ministry.
The Department of Environmental Health issued a press statement Monday apologizing for delays in collections in Bodden Town, East End and West Bay. The statement said the regular schedule should resume by the end of the week.