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Garbage collection to be suspended up to 45 days

By Giff Johnson MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Feb. 4, 2011) - Majuro Atoll’s landfill is overflowing and garbage collection services are expected to be suspended for up to 45 days, plunging the country’s capital city into a solid waste crisis.

In addition, ongoing incineration of hospital hazard waste has been temporarily suspended until a new contract is approved by the Ministry of Health, backing up the volume of medical wastes waiting for elimination.

The crisis at Majuro’s landfill is that it’s years overdue for expansion, and equipment needed to manage the dumpsite will not arrive for at least a month.

Majuro Atoll Waste Company officials said the landfill could be closed as early as the end of this week until new equipment arrives in 30-45 days.

Meanwhile, the Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) said Wednesday that incineration of hazardous waste from Majuro Hospital has been shut down for two weeks because of a contract issue.

"This is ringing alarm bells," said EPA board chairman Ben Chutaro on Wednesday. "The financial situation of the government is starting to show in critical areas."

"We’ve been saying the dump is full for three years and now it’s really full," said Majuro Atoll Waste Co. Manager Roger Cooper on Wednesday. "Garbage is ready to spill out of the gate onto the road."

Majuro Atoll Waste Company (MAWC) was established by the government in 2007 to manage solid waste in the capital. The company improved the landfill and launched weekly home and business trash collection services that have significantly improved the solid waste situation in Majuro.

But MAWC’s equipment is no longer operational and heavy machinery belonging to a private firm that the Waste Company has been using is no longer available, according to Cooper.

"We have equipment inbound, but it will take 30-to-45 days to get here," he said. Without the equipment the purchase of which was delayed by delays in receiving government funding MAWC can’t manage the daily amount of rubbish coming in to the dump.

Incineration of hazardous hospital waste, which is handled at a different location, could resume in the near future. "We have come to an agreement and will continue operation after funding is in place for the bio-hazmat destruction facility," said Chris Bing on Wednesday. Bing’s company runs an incinerator used for burning Majuro Hospital hazardous waste. Bing indicated the hospital has funding available to resume the service.

But Hospital administrator Rosabella Marty said "we are still negotiating a contract with them to where it will benefit both parties. Chris and Ministry of Health are working together to find the best solution for our country so it will be a win-win situation."

Commenting on the temporary incinerator shut down, Bing said, "For safety reasons we couldn’t keep operations running like that especially with that kind of (hazardous) materials. My crews are all well trained and bio-hazmat certified. These are health issues, not just environmental ones," Chutaro said.

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