letter to the editorEarly in 2014, I was approached by a local farmer from La Plaine, complaining that to get to his farm, he had to cross a cesspool of pig waste on the main road, and that the problem had become intolerable.

I witnessed and documented a filthysludge meandering alongside and crossing the main feeder road, and flowing into the Taberieriver, a mere stone’s throw away.

An Ecotourism concern on the river bank directly opposite lamented that his guests could not use the river, which was a major selling point of his business.The stench was also sometimes unbearable!

Another business concern downriver and along the beachindicated that villagers had long since stopped using the adjoining pool, which had been the premiere picnic spot in the entire area.

It was against this background that I organized a meeting of all stakeholders in an effort to address theproblem.

Before the meeting, I consulted with the acting Chief Environmental Health Officer who indicated that:

  • A stop order had been served on the piggery operator. She had no information on the status of that stop order. (my investigation at Legal Affairs revealed that no such order or request had been made).
  • Her Department had been conducting coliform tests and they were all normal. In response to my question as to whether this test was the only indication of water pollution, she brazenly answered that this was the only one they could do. (I found out that DOWASCO routinely does a whole battery of tests at minimal cost).
  • I can recall an Environmental Health Officer, to whom I was referred, abruptly ending a meeting on the matter, saying that I would need to see the Chief because he “did not like my tone!”

Re the stakeholder’s meeting:

  • The proprietor of the piggery responded that he would not be attending because he knew everyone would be hostile to him.
  • The Ag. Chief Agricultural Officer, who from inception had taken up residence at the Agricultural Training Centerin La Plaine, suggested, (I was informed) I should give some free dental Clinics in La Plaine instead of meddling!
  • The Parliamentary Representative, a Cabinet minister, to this day has not had the courtesy to respond to my hand delivered letter of invitation.
  • The local Environmental Health Officer, I was informed, left an oral message at the Village Council office, that he did not see any need to attend the meeting because mitigating measures were being considered.

We did, however, have a productive meeting with worthwhile suggestions for a way forward.

But then one takes stock and knows that there are institutions set up, there are people that are paid full time to protect the public interest. However, they are only interested in protecting their own selfish interests and that of those who belong to their cabal.

You talk to some of the same people who are impacted by this  problem and you immediately sense that a red flag is raised once it appears to be a criticism of their party, they will make all kinds of excuses, find fault with everyone else and ignore the problem. In the meantime, I understand that the number of pigs has more than doubled since.

So one comes to understand the magnitude of the problem, the difficulty in moving this huge stone that is blocking the way.

Will more meetings and more talking cut it?

Still I wish Jason and La Plaine well in this latest round.

 

Joseph C. Williams