Story and photos by Gemma Handy
Salome Griffiths has learned to dread the rain. While for many residents it’s a welcome chance to top up the cistern and water the garden, for the pensioner and her family the slightest downpour turns their Jennings New Extension property into a mud-bath and infests their home with throngs of biting ants, mosquitoes and roaches.
It wasn’t always like this. When Griffiths first bought the land upon which her wooden house stands a decade ago, it fringed a well-used dirt lane.
But years of neglect have seen the road disappear under a swathe of overgrown vegetation, while a lack of drainage has transformed the place into a swamp.
On a soggy day like today, ants are running amok from the front door all the way to Griffiths’ bed.
“It’s pure mud we are walking in,” the 70-year-old says, stepping gingerly across a shipping pallet laid down to create a path.
“People used to be able to drive through here but they just stopped maintaining it,” she continues, gesturing to a thatch of thick bush several feet high.
“I hate it when it rains. The mud gives me pain in my two feet and I can’t sleep at night because of the mosquitoes from the swamp; I feel so drowsy when I try to get up. It’s not good for our health.”
Griffiths shares the house with her son who has learning difficulties, plus her daughter and toddler grandson.
“My grandson was in hospital for weeks with high fever; I think it was connected to the mosquitoes. And I got chikungunya when that was going around; I was sick for two months,” she says.
The flood-prone spot has been worsened in recent months, she says, due to water running down from adjacent, higher elevated properties.
“It’s not sanitary, we have to cover all the food in the house, the little boy has to wear shoes inside, and we all have to cover our feet.
“The ants are even on my bed; sometimes they bite,” Griffiths says.
“Every time the man from APUA comes to read the meter he’s quarrelling because he can’t even see it because of the grass.”
Griffiths says she has been pleading for help from everyone from government agencies to her local MP, Sir Molwyn Joseph, who is also the Health Minister.
“I even went to Molwyn Joseph’s house. I spent all morning there, the rain came and wet me up outside and I still waited there to see him.
“Finally I got to see him and told him of the condition I was living in. He said he would send someone to address it. That was in March and I am still waiting,” she claims.
Griffiths says she has also been calling the National Solid Waste Management Authority – which is responsible for clearing vegetation – for more than a month.
“When the rain falls, we have to carry two pairs of shoes – one to get through the grass and one to put on on the other side – plus a bottle of water to wash our feet,” she adds. “No one should have to live like this.”
The Solid Waste department said it was battling a backlog of work, dating back several weeks. Minister Joseph did not respond to requests for comment.