Landfill fires in Bali’s two biggest open trash dumps are still smoldering six days after the first flames broke out. The fires at Suwung TPA in South Denpasar and Mandung TPA in Tabanan Regency have caused air quality to drop across the island.
Now, residents are being asked to store their waste at home and monitor any symptoms related to poor air quality.
The Department of Energy and Mineral Resources for Bali has been taking air samples in the communities surrounding Suwung TPA. The landfill site is 6.5km from the beach resort of Sanur and 7.5km from Kuta Beach, which is currently downwind of the toxic plumes.
The Head of the Department for Energy and Mineral Resources, IB Setiawan, explained that the results of air testing for sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide exceeded quality standards, and particulates in the air have increased. He told reporters, “So it is recommended to use a mask and drink enough water and limit [outdoor] activities.”
The Mayor of Denpasar, I Gusti Ngurah Jaya Negara, has asked residents in the city and surrounding areas to store their waste at home while teams continue to battle against fires at the Suwung TPA landfill.
The site, which usually accepts upwards of 250 tonnes of waste every day, has been burning and latterly smoldering since Thursday 12th October.
Since the site is closed to all but emergency crews, trash delivery drivers have been redirected to recycling facilities across the regency. However, this is putting unprecedented pressure on these waste processing facilities, which are at capacity.
Mayor Negara said, “We hope that if we still have trash cans that can be tied up and are not full, they won’t be thrown outside until conditions return to normal.”
He added, “Because if little bits of waste are taken outside, then the management takes it to TPST-3R (Temporary Reduce-Reuse-Recycle Processing Place) and it spills onto the road, it’s more dangerous.”
Waste that is usually collected by the government-funded waste management services in Denpasar is being taken to the recycling facilities at nearby Mengwitani, which equates to about 50 tonnes a day.
However, ‘self-managed waste services’ have been told to dispose of their own waste.
Head of Waste Management for Denpasar, AA Gede Dalem, told reporters “Supposedly, they should have a waste management station that is used for sorting, not like a party that delivers services to the landfill. So, as long as the landfill experiences problems, we hand it over to the respective self-management.”
There are now legitimate concerns that the fires are creating a two-fold public health crisis. As toxic flumes enter the atmosphere and decrease air quality, people across the island are reporting symptoms of burning eyes, shortness of breath, coughs, and sinus pain.
Those worst affected after those who live in close proximity to the landfill site, though locals and tourists as far as Canggu and Seseh have reported feeling the impacts of the poor air quality.
The second potential public health disaster is that trash that would usually be destined for the landfill sites gets dumped in the streets, in new illegal landfills, or in rivers.
Trash that gets dumped into the rivers then poses a threat to water quality in the area.
Some trucks that usually dump in Suwung TPA have been redirected to the Mandung TPA in Tabanan, which is still smoldering, and the Temesi TPA in Gianyar, which also caught on fire in the early hours of Monday morning.
The fires could smolder on for weeks. The National Disaster Agency has revealed that at Suwung TPA, the fires are burning from as deep as 30m below the surface of the trash mountain.
During his visit to the site, the Mayor of Denpasar commented to the media that if anyone could succeed in bringing the rain to pour over Suwung TPA, he would personally pay for a round-trip vacation to Singapore.
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