Wake up, lives are at risk

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 09 July 2018, 12:00AM

New year same old problem. We are talking about the plight of people living in Falelauniu, Vaitele-fou, Nu’u and nearby villages in relation to toxic fumes from the Tafa’igata landfill, which flared up again last week.

It’s not the first time. It happened in 2015, 2016, 2017 and now again in 2018. And still the authorities appear unprepared on how to deal with such a calamity.

The truth is quite obvious. Although no scientific evidence exists to prove the smoke from the fire is hazardous, one does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that it is unhealthy and highly toxic.  

If you live in the area, you would know that it’s not a smell you want to wake up to. It’s in fact a horrible smell, an unhealthy one too.

Just ask the residents living within the vicinity of the landfill. 

When the Samoa Observer visited, Ielua Ielua, of Malie-uta, his children and family members were seen washing their clothes surrounded by thick smoke. 

“Our greatest concern is our children’s health because they are inhaling gas from burnt toxic waste,” he said. “We have infants who are exposed to these fumes yet we do not have the power to stop that fire.

 “The saddest part is that we have been exposed from yesterday afternoon up until this morning. We are still being exposed smokes.” 

Another Nu’u resident, Christopher Warren, shared the same concern.

 “The fumes came with a very bad smell of burned plastics and tires, it had a strong scent,” he said. 

“It affected us all throughout the night. Everything was just covered in smoke. We could not breathe properly. We even used cloths to cover our noses and breathe through it. I was more concerned about my children, especially their health.”

Both Mr. Ielua and Mr. Warren have legitimate concerns that should be taken seriously by the relevant authorities. 

The fact that this fire is a recurring problem also suggests there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed than treating it as an occasional fire. 

This obviously suggests there is a bigger issue that needs to be dealt with at the landfill. There is no guarantee the fire will not go off again this time next year and the following years. The worry is that while the government authorities are trying to find some solutions, people’s lives are being endangered.

Last week, the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said they are conducting a Health Impact Assessment in relation to the issue.

“Time frame for the health assessment to be completed depends on the situation with the fire and smoke coming from the landfill,” he said.

 “After we investigate and carry out assessment of the situation, we will analyse the findings and recommend ways to counter the problem.”

Well that’s fine but what about the damage that has already been done to people’s health and lives? For three straight years, people living in the area have had to inhale those fumes. 

How does one go about undoing the damage already done? And what guarantee do they have that the same thing will not happen again a few weeks or months down the line?

As we’ve said before, perhaps one of the issues both F.E.S.A and M.N.R.E should find out is how these fires start. Knowing that the landfill is a goldmine for the hungry, poor and scavengers, they might be part of the problem. 

You see all it takes for a fire to go off is a cigarette butt and we all know that these cigarette butts don’t just walk themselves there. The other scenario – which we hope is not the case – is a person who is deliberately setting off these fires. In that case, the Police should be called in to investigate and find the culprit.

We need to remind once more that innocent lives are put at risk from the toxic fumes and this cannot be allowed to continue as if it’s normal.

The plight of residents living within the vicinity of the Tafaigata landfill deserves urgent action and a lot more attention than it has been given.

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 09 July 2018, 12:00AM

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