By Alagie Manneh
Scores of residents and business operators in Kotu have been reported to have left or about to do so, after worsening bad odour emanating from the Kotu sewage dumpsite makes life unbearable.
The odour, which started getting worse a few months ago, is coming from a waste pond officials said they have no treatment for.
According to the acting MD of Aqua Gambia Ltd, Kora Jassey, a water treatment company and the body managing the pond, the problem started when truck drivers started collecting industrial wastes from the Gunjur and Kartong fish factories for dumping at the pond.
“My information is that the fish meal companies there were prevented from dumping waste at their location by villagers opposed to their business. So they used every means to take the waste away by offering waste collection trucks thousands of dalasis per trip who come here to dump the industrial waste here.
“This place was not this bad all the past years but the new addition of waste from the fish meal factories from Kartong and Gunjur, which we have no treatment for, has seriously worsened the situation,” Mr Jassey told The Standard.
He continued: “The reality is we don’t have any treatment for this industrial waste from Kartong and Gunjur. If these [truck drivers] stop bringing their waste here, then the smell will stop.”
The MD said his facility is only designed and obligated to accept the dumping of domestic waste from compounds and hotels.
He also claimed that they only realised industrial waste was being dumped there when the stench grew stronger by the day.
“The last time when I attempted to stop them from dumping here, the drivers staged a big strike and even PURA and the Commissioner of West Coast Region police were here,” the Aqua man said.
He added that both the NEA and PURA are working on the issue to ensure that the matter is resolved and dumping is stopped at the site.
“They don’t follow our protocols. For example, we told them they have to dump this in the pretreatment place, but they are just dumping direct to the lagoons. They refused whenever we tell them not to,” he added.
One Ebrima, a driver denied allegations that they are being paid D10, 000 to dump at Aqua. He asked whether the pond managers too have not been paid money to accept the waste their even though they know they have no treatment for it.
Another driver, who said he has been a waste collector since 1996, said: “If they can’t stop industrial wastes, they must find a chemical for this bad smell. They should also help us with equipment like gloves and other protective materials.”
Sheikh Njie, a driver, said when Nawec was managing the pond the situation has never been this bad. “When the current management took over, they went looking for waste collection trucks and even begging them to bring their waste to the Aqua Pond promising they have the chemical to deal with all waste. So they should act on their word. It’s not like we dump here for free, you know,” he stressed.
Mr Ebrima Bah, the Manager of Badala Park Hotel, appealed to Aqua to do something as the problem is affecting his business “seriously.”
“Sometimes when the odour turns towards our hotel, all my customers used to go out and we don’t make money. They have to go out to other restaurants which is badly affecting the business of Badala Park Hotel.”
“The smell is terrible and is making my workers and myself sick”
Samsudeen Sarr, a former army captain now running a mechanic shop at the Futurelec building, said he is even considering the possibility of closing the workshop by the end of this month if nothing is done about it.
Lamin Komma, a senior programme officer, Coastal & Marine Environment said: “The pretreatment facility is not working for reasons best known to Aqua. Because of this, drivers would come and just dump in the compartments”.
He added:”They have altered their technology or treating system, this is the cause of the problem, and because of that, we found them wanting and in breach of some environmental regulations.”
Meanwhile the residents of the area have called on President Adama Barrow to take immediate step to remedy the situation.
Additional reporting by Isatou Jawara