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Belen Residents Complain Of Bad Odors Of Collapsed Landfill On San Jose Side Of The Virilla River

Photo by ASOCARIARI

Q COSTA RICA – Environment and Health (Ambiente y Salud) authorities are investigating a “very serious problem” occurring over the weekend in a slope of the sanitary landfill of La Carpio, which borders with the river Virilla the limit between the cantons of San José and Belén.

The Minister of Environment and Energy (Ambiente y Energía), Édgar Gutiérrez, reported that the investigation began after a group of 100 residents of the Association of Residential Development Cariari (ASOCARIARI) reported the collapse of a retaining wall causing pollution in the channel and strong odors in the community.

Photo by ASOCARIARI

Contributor to the Q, Rafael Stumbo, also one of the residents contacted the Belen municipality that in reply confirmed that “there was a situation at the Uruka landfill” over the weekend and that the today, Tuesday, the municipality conducted an inspection of the site.

“The waste did not fall into the river, but remained in the margin, however, there is a proliferation of odors caused by the exposure of materials that mainly affects the sector of Cariari and La Asunción, but has reached San Antonio. In order to determine the degree of impact of the event, we require the decision of the responsible bodies, namely the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment and Energy”, was the reply by M.Sc. Esteban Salazar Acuña. Waste Management Environmental Unit of the Municipality of Belen.

Speaking to La Nacion, the president of the ASOCARIARI, Melissa Flores, this problem (the odor) is normal but aggravated during the rainy season.

Photo by ASOCARIARI

“On Friday, around 5:00 pm, the smell got worse than ever, all the neighbors complained by of way chats (social media), so I went up to the second level of the house and I could see that a slope had collapsed, the grove was razed by the rubbish,” said Flores.

The landfill, Parque de Tecnología Ambiental Uruka, is operated under concession by Berthier EBI de Costa Rica S.A.

According to Flores, the security guard told her that there had been an emergency and that they were working on it. However, late Sunday night the company, in an official statement, said: “that the landfill is not collapsed and its operation is normal and conforms to current regulations in health and environment.”

In addition, the company said that no trash had been dumped into the Virilla River and that the affected area “corresponds to an area of 35 x 40 m (1,400 m2), equivalent to 0.67% of the total area of the project.”

A Ten Year Fight

The president of the Resident’s Association explains that the landfill had a useful life of 10 years, which expired in 2007. “Since then the concessionaire company has worked with extensions, but the land can’t take more,” she said.

Flores assures that strong odors generate poor quality of life, health problems such as allergies and vomiting. “We no longer care about losing the value of our homes. This is a health issue, we want to live peacefully with our families,” added Flores.

However, the landfill is on the San Jose side of the Virilla river.

Horacio Alvarado, mayor of Belen, said that his municipality is not responsible for the situation. “I want to clarify that Belen has no landfill or garbage dump, that (the problem) corresponds to the Municipality of San Jose. The problem is that since it is so badly handled, the wind brings bad smells and affects the communities of Belen,” he said.

Alvarado added that a study was conducted “six years ago” which determination was delivered to the Municipality of San José and the Ministry of Health so that they take action on the issue.

For their part, the neighbors on the San Jose side have filed complaints against the Municipality of San José and an appeal has been before the Environmental Court of the Ministry of Health.

Flores adds that, despite the complaints, the Brethier EBI received the Ecological Blue Flag award.

Following is the response letter from the Municipality of Belen.

Buenos días Don Rafael:

Efectivamente el fin de semana hubo una situación en el relleno sanitario Uruka, ubicado en la Carpio, por un desprendimiento de un talud que provoco el movimiento de material hacia el margen del río Virilla.

El día de hoy realizamos una inspección al sitio, en onde se evaluó preliminarmente lo sucedido.

En concreto, los residuos no cayeron al río, sino que se mantuvieron en el margen, sin embargo si hay un proliferación de olores causada por la exposición de los materiales que afecta principalmente al sector de Cariari y La Asunción, pero que ha llegado hasta San Antonio.

Para poder determinar la afectación y el grado de impacto del evento faltaría el pronunciamiento de los entes responsables, a saber, Ministerio de salud y Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía

Saludos cordiales

M.Sc. Esteban Salazar Acuña
Gestor de Residuos
Unidad Ambiental
Municipalidad de Belén
Tel: + 506 2587-0000 Ext. 161
Directo +506 2587-0161
reciclaje@belen.go.cr