Inside the Truttier Waste Dump, where animals and humans forage for their needs in highly toxic conditions. (photo by Mac McKinney)
We were on the way to Truttier at the end of Part 5 of this series, before I had to digress over to the Iron Market, but allow me to again pick up the thread:
Congratulations from other Caribbean presidents and officials, as well as elsewhere, are flowing into the offices of the new President-elect of Haiti, Michel (Sweet Micky) Martelly, famous (some would say infamous, but they may be squares) Compas musician and businessman, after he handily won the second round runoff against Mirlande Manigat, the results first being announced on April 4. However, few of these same officials would want to take on the incredibly challenging job that Martelly has assigned himself to do, which is to rebuild Haiti.
Everything, practically, is screwed up, with hundreds of thousands of thousands of Haitians still living in tents, displaced by the 2010 earthquake. Add to that a cholera epidemic that didn't abate until this winter, and which threatens to renew itself this spring and summer as the rainy season brings annual rising waters that can spread cholera bacteria lying hidden in both soil and plant-life right back into many of the sources of drinking, bathing and washing water in Haiti.
Then there is the wrecked economy, the culture of corruption, the foreign exploitation, the dysfunctional relationship between NGOs and both the Haitian government and people, not to mention the quasi-permanent presence of MINUSTAH, the UN peace-keeping force that has become a "piece" of the problem, and on and on. To put it mildly, Sweety Micky has his work cut out for him.
But in my humble opinion, nothing is more important than providing the Haitian people with that most basic requirement for staying alive, clean drinking water, and perhaps that is why Georgianne Nienaber and I ended up bouncing around the backroads of La Saline and Cite Soleil on February 5th, to convey this message.
We were on our way to investigate one of the least desirable locales in Haiti, the Truttier Waste Disposal Dump near the giant slum of Cite Soleil and, worse still, located atop the Plaine Cul-de-Sac Aquifer, yes unfortunately, the same aquifer that provides fresh water for the capital, Port-au-Prince, home to hundreds of thousands of people without counting its suburbs.
What makes things particularly bad is that raw sewage from cholera treatment camps is being brought here in sewage tanker trucks, which gingerly back up to the edge of a giant, putrid and open-air holding pond (more like a little lake) in the middle of the spacious dump, while truck drivers leap out, walk to the rear end and open wide the large discharge valve that unleashes the toxic sewage into the unlined pond. The sewage can, from that point on, potentially leach into the aquifer underneath, threatening the capital's water supply, as well as flow underground into the Bay of Port-au-Prince, polluting the ocean and marine life.
The dump is also host to, besides the ordinary debris, a medical waste dumping area, which we wondered through photographing, noting discarded needles and syringes, bags full of vomit and excrement from the cholera treatment centers, and other gross refuse.
It is not that we were the first journalists to discover this, only the latest to document it and point out the snail's pace of enforcing the minimal regulations to protect the living. For instance, there are, actually, bulldozers and earth-diggers excavating the site of a new holding pool that WILL be lined, and I took some distance shots of them at work, as you will see.
Georgianne even produced her own video to highlight the situation:
She also tied this video in with her excellent report on the general calamity of UNSAT potable water for the entire country, entitled
Haiti: Clean Water Is a Human Right If You Can Find it , which I highly recommend you read.
And, BREAKING JOURNALISTIC NEWS , Georgianne has just published another very timely piece on the water crisis in Haiti entitled: Who Will Respond to Haiti's Cholera SOS?
My job on this assignment was primarily to take pictures,and this is what I did, as you will discover below. Someone please see that President-elect Martelly gets to see them, if he hasn't reviewed similar ones already. The first and foremost thing a government should do is to procure and ensure the nation's health. You can't rebuild anything if the foundations are laid in toxic waste water.
Touring the Truttier Waste Dump:
Shanty towns and jerry-rigged tents lurk in the shadows, often half-hidden by garbage and debris, but they run all the way up to the edge of the waste dump.