Published On: Sat, Jul 13th, 2019

Dump lawsuit set for ruling on July 26

BZSE Law - Citizen Take Government to Court about Dump

PHILIPSBURG – The court case against country St. Maarten and the manager of the landfill, Robelto&Son is near its conclusion. The plaintiffs, Barbara Cannegieter, attorney Camiel Koster and his law office BZSE have asked the court for a ruling that is now expected to be delivered in two weeks time, on July 26.

The plaintiffs filed an injunction against country St. Maarten and Robelto&Son, the company that managed the dump, in July 2018, demanding measures within three months.

The centerpiece of the injunction is an article in the civil code (5:31 BW); it stipulates that the owner of a parcel of land is not allowed to cause undue hindrance to owners of other parcels. The continued emission of stench, gases and smoke from the landfill qualifies as “unlawful hindrance,” the plaintiffs state in their petition to the court. Cannegieter lives on L.B. Scott Road and has a clear view of the dump. Koster lives in Beacon Hill and the BZSE office is in Belair. All plaintiffs suffer from the toxic emissions from the dump – weekly and at times daily.

The uncoordinated dumping of household waste combined with electronic waste, cars, batteries and chemical waste results in chemical processes and regular fires that cause coughing fits and headaches to the plaintiffs.

The petition notes that landfill-manager Robelto does not have the required hindrance permit.

The Ministry of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) has not been exactly forthcoming when Koster asked access to the Robelto-contract and all dump-related reports in the ministry’s possession.

Koster files his request based on the Landsverordening Openbaarheid van Bestuur (Law on Public Administration – LOB) but the minister refused to provide the requested information, also after he was ordered by the court to do so.

After Koster won an appeal in the administrative court, the minister refused to react to the LOB-request saying that this would “frustrate the investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.”

But the prosecutor’s office told Koster that his request could not hinder its investigation into criminal activities at the dump. Even better: the ministry had not even bothered to contact the prosecutor’s office about this matter. In the end, Koster received a copy of the contract from the prosecutor’s office.

The petition to the court furthermore refers to article 21 of St. Maarten’s Constitution. That article states that the government takes measures to promote public health.

Cannegieter, Koster and BZSE asked that the hindrance from smoke and stench ends within three months and that the RIVM – the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment – conducts measurements to establish the toxicity of the dump-emissions. In case of non-compliance, plaintiffs asked the court to impose a penalty of $5,000 per day with a maximum of $1 million.