Government puts an end to private contracting for Refuse and Cleanup. About time

Human Interest

The Urban and Home Cleaning Authority (AAUD) reported that in the next three months it will manage the largest landfill in the capital city: the one on Cerro Patacón. The decision, according to the company Urbalia, SA, occurs when his contract is still valid until the end of the year and not until March 26, as the authorities say.

Currently, this 160-hectare landfill has become a source of pollution for areas such as Panama and San Miguelito, after it reached its capacity, after being created in the mid-1980s with a 30-year projection.

This Monday the AAUD put an end to the concession of the administration of the landfill to the company Urbalia, SA, which for 15 years had the maintenance and distribution of waste.

The AAUD reported that from that date it will be the one that will operate the landfill for three months, to later contract a new company that will have the administration for two years, while studies are carried out to identify what will be the future of handling and management of the garbage for the districts of Panama and San Miguelito.

The Urban and Home Cleaning Authority will control the Patacón hill;  Urbalia says that his contract continues
Garbage collection trucks arrive at the Cerro Patacón open-air landfill. Carlos Lemos | EFE

The company Urbalia, SA, for its part, declared that it will file legal appeals against this action that they consider “arbitrary and illegal” when the State owes them $26 million, said Edwin Medina, Urbalia’s lawyer, in statements to the media.

Other breaches, according to Medina, have been the lack of collaboration with the management and approval of the measures and lack of possession for the corresponding permits.

“If the company or the operator that arrives at the sanitary landfill or that has been there tomorrow, is not going to receive the necessary resources, it is a lie that environmental impact mitigation is achieved in this or in any landfill. The State must be aware of its duty to the citizens to protect the environment and health. For this reason, one cannot speak of, nor single out a single actor in the entire system, when the system has collapsed precisely because of the government’s negligence”, clarified the lawyer from Urbalia, SA

Alonso Filós Avecilla, designated general administrator of the AAUD, commented to La Estrella de Panamá that the cancellation of the contract with Urbalia, SA was agreed 15 years ago, therefore, they were enforcing the legal action. “It’s nothing new and the company knew that his contract effectively ended on March 26, at 11:59,” he explained.

Filós clarified that the government stopped paying the company for a series of breaches in the processes of spreading, compacting and covering the waste. “We were not going to pay for a service that has not been provided and that, in addition, had a series of complaints about the mismanagement of the landfill,” he said.

During the three months of administration, the AAUD will analyze the 160 hectares of the landfill plus the environmental impacts within the 9,000 hectares related to soil, water, air and surrounding community contamination. These remediations will cost more than $100 million.

“We know that the problems that are in the Patacón hill will not be easy to solve, we will go little by little. This Monday is technically the first day that we are entering, because before we only attended to the day to day with the car, spreading, compacting and covering the waste. Now we must look at other issues within the 160 hectares,” Filós said.

high beam solutions

The environmental lawyer Susana Serracín believes that it is not only the AAUD that manages the landfill, but also inter-institutional support between the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health, taking into account that “the Patacón hill is a reflection of the Panama is behind in terms of the waste disposal model and the government’s lack of planning” . production and consumption of today’s society.

He considered that “urgent” comprehensive waste management that includes regulatory, operational, financial, administrative, educational, planning, monitoring and evaluation actions for the proper management of waste, from its generation to final disposal, which in turn considers to the social actors involved , seeking to reduce the negative impacts on human health and the environment. To this end, he mentioned that the use of state-of-the-art technologies in environmentally sound elimination, treatment and final disposal is “very important”.

Another face of the crisis at Cerro Patacón are the recyclers who still work in the warehouses and who have been holding protests for a week to avoid losing their jobs now that Urbalia, SA is no longer in charge of the administration of Cerro Patacón.

On this issue, the designated AAUD general administrator stated that they have been meeting with recyclers to assure them that they will continue to use the bins. To the extent possible, they will create cleaning actions to improve conditions.

He explained that the AAUD has an average of 1,300 tons of garbage per day; private collectors carry approximately 500 tons, and the other difference of 500 tons is carried by San Miguelito. Everything gives an estimate of between 2,300 and 2,500 tons that arrive at the landfill, depending on the season or festivities.

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