photo: Sharina Henriquez

PHILIPSBURG – The dump in the center of Philipsburg, the capital city of Sint Maarten, has become a bigger problem since hurricane Irma. The safety, and wellbeing on the inhabitants all over the island are at risk.

Carlos Mendez has been working at the dump for nearly 20 years. Since hurricane Irma, he has also been living at the dump with his wife, and child. “I lost my home, that’s why I’m living here.”

By Sharina Henriquez (English and Dutch spoken)

It is the 32nd time this year that the fire department had to go to the dump to fight a fire. They only roll out for raging fires. However the dump smolders on a daily basis because of the subterranean gasses, caused by the deposited waste.

 ‘The dump is a bomb that’s about to explode’ – Public Prosecutors Office Sint Maarten

The minister responsible for the dump, Miklos Giterson, called it a ‘giant murderer’ at the beginning of his term earlier this year. After that the Public Prosecutors Office started a criminal investigation into the dump. The Public Prosecutors Office already concluded that the dump is like a bomb that’s about to explode. The World Bank is also involved in its role with the reconstruction of the island after hurricane Irma, and as such is trying to find a sustainable solution.

But the dump’s neighbors, and other inhabitants from neighborhoods as Belair, St. Peter, and Cole Bay are skeptical. Some of them are moving to neighborhoods where the problem is less evident but that’s becoming more difficult. The dump which is more that 30 years old, is growing fast and currently stands at 42 meters. Hurricane Irma caused a 30% growth spurt in the size of the dump.

The rubble from the hurricane has been dumped in a new dump called the ‘baby dump’. This ‘baby dump’ is also regularly catches fire. Additionally a third dump is now appearing in Port de Plaisance where boats, and fiberglass are being disposed of according to the Public Prosecutors Office.

 ‘We can smell it every day, even when there isn’t a fire’ – entrepreneur Susan Piscione

Susan Piscione, and her husband own a bicycle shop in Simpson Bay about 10 kilometers away from the dump. But even they are bothered by the dump. Sometimes they are unable to work in the back office due to the smoke. “We can smell it every day, even when there isn’t a fire. People have gotten used to it, but I am worried about the effects on my health.”

She’s wearing a T-shirt designed by Frank Peterson who is well-known for his controversial designs on the island. The T-shirts reads: ‘I survived Irma only to be poisoned by the dump’. “Sint Maarten people are a little bit quiet, and very easy-going but now I think we’ve had enough.”

The government is less than 1 kilometer away from the dump – picture: Sharina Henriquez