Bagaces Trash Dump Faces Permanent Closure

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The Bagaces trash dump has faced health violations and closure orders for 14 years because of its poor waste management.

The Health Ministry (Minsa) and the Administrative Environmental Court (TAA) have ordered its closure several times since 2005, but the City of Bagaces has disobeyed the order on several occasions and, at times, managed to get extensions in order to improve management.

Fixing health violations is mandatory and they must be attended to in the time period indicated, according to health regulations. Disobeying them means committing a crime.

To date, the local government doesn’t have a definitive solution for the dump and the health ministry said that the closure must be immediate and that it won’t grant extensions to solve the problem.

A Remedial Plan

The city has proposed signing a contract with company Tecnoambiente to take the trash to the the landfill at the EcoIndustrial Park in Miramar, Puntarenas so as not to leave trash in the streets.

The service will include new routes and 1,100 additional homes, but the quarterly price will increase by 56 percent to ₡14,898 ($25.00) from ₡9,526 ($16.00) per household.

The Voice Fact Checking consulted with the community through The Voice Facebook pages in Cañas and Bagaces to see if they would accept higher prices in order to keep trash collection going.

One of the residents, Isis Amador, said that Bagaces residents aren’t aware of the problem and expressed concern. “I would be willing to pay more for the service if it’s efficient and punctual,” Amador said.

Costa Rica’s Comptroller approved the city’s plan to hire a collection service for six months in an order issued on April 9. Bagaces mayor said that contracting process may take two to three months, so Tecnoambiente could begin collecting trash in June or July.

Meanwhile, the city is also studying the possibility of converting the dump into a landfill (with better waste treatment procedures) instead of closing it entirely.

Missed Opportunities

In July 2018, the mayor, environmental manager and other officials met with the deputy minister of Health, Denis Angulo, and said that they didn’t have the money for solving the problem. They reached a verbal agreement that the city would prove that it is taking steps to solve the problem, but the only thing they accomplished before the deadline was approving a 114 million colon increase in the waste management budget.

When asked by The Voice Fact Checking, the deputy minister explained that they city didn’t fulfill its commitment and the ministry has instructed its office in Bagaces to issue a closure order.

Angulo didn’t say when the closure must be, but mayor Quijano said that the regional health department told him verbally that it will be in May, though they are still awaiting the official notification.

“I warned the mayor and the representatives that they would have to pay attention to the issue in order to solve it as soon as possible. Due to the lack of action by the authorities in Bagaces, we will proceed to close it,” Angulo told the Voice.

The situation in Bagaces isn’t unique. Minsa said in a press release that from 2012 through February 2016, it has issued closure orders for 18 dumps and 94 health violations in cities across the country for mismanagement of waste.