Govt. moves on toxic fumes claims

By Deidre Fanene ,

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C.E.O.: Suluimalo Amataga Penaia.

C.E.O.: Suluimalo Amataga Penaia.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Suluimalo Amataga Penaia, has assured that they are doing everything they can to deal with a fire at the Tafa’igata rubbish dump.

Suluimalo issued the assurance yesterday when he was asked about claims from nearby residents that the fumes from the fire are dangerous for their health. The fire has been burning on and off since last week. The Chief Executive Officer confirmed this.

“The fire was under control after our collective efforts with F.E.S.A. and contractors which took up the whole day on Saturday until the early hours of Sunday,” he said.

 “By Sunday late afternoon, the fire was out.” But Suluimalo said the fire flared up again on Monday afternoon. “We will give you an update later,” he said. 

“At the moment our staff and contractors are currently working to completely stamp out the new fire.” The hot and dry conditions have not helped the authorities. Suluimalo added that the new fire started at another corner of the dump.

 “The new fire is under control and we are hoping it will be completely put off before dark today.”

The Chief Executive Officer did not have time to address concerns about the toxic fumes and the impact on nearby residents who have had to struggle with it for the past few days.

Last week, Onotolu Falefala said his family struggled to sleep when the fire started.

“Whatever was burnt it sure smelled toxic,” he said. “We live in an open fale and the smoke was hard to inhale. It was like the fire was right next to our house.”

Further down at Nu’u and Aele, it was just as bad. “I couldn’t recognise the colour of my house when I woke up on Thursday morning,” said Petone Aumalia. “I thought it was a Sunday morning with the smoke from the umu except the smell was horrible.” According to residents, the fire started last Wednesday night at around 11. Mr. Falefala said they immediately contacted the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (F.E.S.A.). 

But the response, he said, was less than satisfactory.

“The person said that we should contact M.N.R.E.”

M.N.R.E. is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the government body responsible for the Tafaigata Rubbish dump.

 “It’s disappointing because even if it’s the M.N.R.E. who are responsible for this, they should still come to put the fire out.

“All we wanted for them to do was to come and put the fire out because if it spreads then all of us who are living close to the area will be affected.”

One Vaitele-fou man who wished to remain anonymous said the government should show that it is concerned about the issue.

 “We are inhaling these fumes,” he said.

“I’m not an expert in matters of the environment but my human gut feeling tells me that these fumes are poisonous and hazardous. My children are also inhaling them and so are thousands of other people in the area. 

“This is coming from plastics and other materials that are not supposed to be burnt. Does anyone care to find out why these fires keep on happening?”

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