Environmental Court Orders Nosara Dump to Close

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At the beginning of October, the Administrative Environmental Court ruled for the third time that the Nosara garbage dump must be closed, adding more force to previous orders to close the dump, which have been received since 2007.

The court decision is the resolution of a denunciation that was filed in February of 2011 against the Ministry of Health and the mayor of Nicoya, Marcos Jimenez, by Dianu Madrigal, an environmental manager who lives in San Jose but has family in Nosara. When she visited them a couple of years ago and saw the dump, she decided that something needed to be done to protect the environment. Madrigal affirmed to The Voice that “open-air garbage dumps bring many consequences. They don’t have one positive aspect.” One of her main concerns is that liquids leaking from the garbage could contaminate underground waters, especially in such a hot climate.”

Marcos Avila, the syndic of Nosara, said, “This order [to close the dump] has been there for a long time but it has never been completed. I think and I’ve been analyzing that if it has to close, than it must be closed, and the municipality will have to take responsibility for coming here and collecting this garbage. The community can’t pay for the garbage and take it to Santa Cruz.” 

Municipality Appeals the Order

The municipal mayor acknowledged that they received the court order but are appealing it because the land where the dump is located is private land registered to the Nosara Civic Association and the municipality cannot invest public funds in land that is not municipal.

Nonetheless, the Nosara Civic Association (NCA) and the Nosara Recycling Association have been communicating with the Municipality in an effort to resolve issues in a collaborative way.

Alvin Rosenbaum, president of the NCA, remarked, “Obviously the lack of municipal responsibility for the dump has been a serious problem for the Nosara District. NCA has pending requests for Nicoya to cooperate but, to date, we have been on our own.”

The Nosara Recycling Association has also been in contact with the municipality to propose possible solutions to the local garbage situation, but Jessica Sheffield Zamora, vice president of the Recycling Association, said the association doesn’t want the dump to be closed until they can set up an alternative way of handling the garbage.

However, Sheffield affirmed that they have been aware of the problem with the dump since the Recycling Association was formed in 2008. She said that there are four main concerns: the potential pollution of the aquifer since the dump has no lining, the threat of dengue from potential mosquito breeding grounds, the affect on biodiversity in the dry forest where the dump is located and the possibility of trash being carried to the Nosara River in rainy season from the creeks behind the dump.

Their short-term goal is to move the trash from Nosara to a regulated landfill. They proposed to the environmental department of the municipality a plan in which they would raise funds to truck the garbage to Nicoya and from there the municipality could take charge of sending it to the landfill in Santa Cruz, as it does with garbage from Nicoya and Samara. However, she said the municipality turned down the idea due to lack of funds.

After that, the Recycling Association looked for another way to work with the municipality. “We went to the municipal council and presented the idea not only of moving the trash but also of our recycling center and that we are doing the work of the municipality basically,” Sheffield related.

This was done in August, and Sheffield said the council approved a budget for 2014, but they still don’t know how much that budget will be or how it will be used. “We want to help solve the problem. We want to partner with the municipality. They’ve never given a dime for trash in Nosara so this would be a big first step,” she said.

Sheffield said their end goal is to treat garbage in Nosara with a proper landfill, but the cost would be about $1 million, including the cost of performing a technical closure of the current dump. Toward that end, a team from the University of Florida will be coming and conducting a study.

Recycling is Half the Solution 

Sheffield said the association’s first main project focused on recycling because recycling can reduce the amount of garbage being sent to the dump by 50%, and if organic matter is also separated out, that would be another 20 to 30% of the waste material.

The Nosara Recycling Center, built with funds raised by the association and the community, officially opened in October, and has an administrator and a staff of ten local women who are conducting a large educational campaign, going house to house to teach people how to recycle. 

At present, Sheffield said they aren’t receiving a sufficient amount of materials to cover the cost of the truck, which is collecting items from Guiones and Playa Pelada from Dos Lorenas in the town of Esperanza to the Nosara river mouth on Wednesdays twice a month for now, but they hope that in high season they can collect enough to send a truck once a week and possibly extend the route to include Nosara town.

“We have no income right now. Eventually we should be sustainable if we have enough recyclables to sell and pay for everything,” Sheffield affirmed.

To encourage more recycling, they are also holding prize raffles for people who take recyclable to the center. For information about what items can be recycled, check recycling guide at