San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Limón’s Trash Soon May Head to History’s Heap

Florencia Morgan sprinkles Clorox on the mounds of trash outside her house to cover up the smell and keep away the flies. For as long as she can remember, trash has lined the streets of Limón, a port city on the Caribbean coast.

Now the city seems to have found a solution. In January, the Canadian company EBI will build a landfill some 10 kilometers from Limón, which now hauls trash to a plant about 100 kilometers away.

The six municipalities in Limón province will be able to deposit trash in the landfill for about $17 per ton, said EBI General Manager Juan Vicente Durán.

He said he expects the company to finish a two-hectare landfill and treatment plant by the end of January. If the landfill makes money, EBI will expand it to about 30 hectares.

The January date may be overly optimistic. EBI has yet to apply for construction permits from a slew of notoriously slow government bodies. Still, strong support from Limón Mayor Eduardo Barboza, who must award a final permit, will likely speed the project.

Of the all the province’s cities, the port city has the worst trash problem, Durán said. Pools of water collect in the garbage and attract mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus, which in rare cases can be fatal. Citing concerns about a dengue outbreak, Health Minister María Luisa Avila canceled Limón’s annual October carnival for the second year in a row.

“For the kids …everything is trash,” said Frank Earl, an aid to Barboza. “When they wake up, they see trash. When they go to sleep, they see trash. They smell trash.”

Limón is one of the poorest provinces in the country. Of its six cantons, four are in the bottom 10 percent on the United Nations’ scorecard for human development in Costa Rica. The index takes into account life expectancy, health, education and standard of living.

Durán expects that to change as the Arias administration pushes projects to revitalize the city of Limón. A $72.5 million loan from the World Bank and $7.5 million pledged by the Arias administration will go toward improving the city’s sewer system, creating parks and restoring historic buildings.

A more modern port system will also help, Durán said. Early next year, the government will open a bidding process to companies around the world interested in developing the Caribbean ports of Limón and Moín, which handle roughly 80 percent of the country’s imports and exports.

The province now produces 400 tons of trash a day, Durán said, but he expects garbage to grow as the province develops.

“Right now, a landfill might not be profitable,” he said. “In 20 years, it will be very profitable.”

EBI shelled out $400,000 to buy Finca Santa Rosa, the 42-hectare tract of land where the landfill will be built. The twohectare landfill will cost about $300,000 and process about 600,000 tons of trash a day, Durán said. The company could invest up to $15 million to expand the landfill if it proves profitable, he added.

EBI has yet to apply for required construction permits from the Health Ministry, the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry, the Federated Association of Engineers and Architects and the municipality.

Florencia Morgan, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about the new landfill.

City authorities have long promised to solve the trash problem, but it’s only grown worse, she said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”


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