Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz says that he is treating the JISCO Alpart’s bauxite/alumina waste, red mud lake, in Myersville, St. Elizabeth as a top priority as the dust nuisance persists, affecting every facet of life.
Vaz, who was among a team of officials that visited the area on Thursday (Feb. 13) called the bone-dry, 650-acre mud lake and the ensuing dust pollution affecting the residents an “absolute crisis”.
“It is an absolute crisis happening down there as a result of the temporary closure of JISCO. I met with the senior Jamaican management, along with all of the agencies that are involved as it relates to the dust nuisance coming from the 650-acre mud lake,” Vaz said at a press conference on Friday at Jamaica House.
“There [are] several dust events and I toured the communities and it is a health crisis [for] the residents,” he argued further.
Contributing to the dust pollution from the mud lake is drought, Vaz contended as the area has not had enough rain to quench the drying bauxite-alumina mud lake since December 10. Two months into drought conditions, compacted high winds, the dust has been invading homes in the lower Santa Cruz Mountains.
Residents within the reaches of the migrating dust have repeatedly complained of respiratory and other illnesses, which they say, are directly attributable to the mud lake.
Additionally, the dust has compromised their harvested rainwater and crops have been damaged or destroyed by the contaminated dust.
In the meantime, Vaz has assured that the Government is actively pursuing a solution to the matter with JISCO/Alpart to keep the mud lake wet as the company prepares for yet-to-begin infrastructural upgrades.
“I want to reassure the communities that Government will find a solution with JISCO during this period of closure until such time as they [employ] new technologies and new equipment in their re-opening plan,” said Vaz.
“It is something at the top of my list as a priority and I’m committing to them that I will continue to monitor it personally as minister and to make sure that we do what we can as soon as possible,” he declared.