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The Caribbean Gas Chemical Limited (CGCL) plant at Union Industrial Estate, La Brea.

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The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) visited the villages of Vessigny and Sobo in La Brea yesterday, as it started an investigation into complaints that the US$1 billion Caribbean Gas Chemical Ltd’s (CGCL) plant is emitting harmful acoustics and vibrations.EMA managing director Hayden Romano said they were looking into reports from the residents that there is excessive noise, heat and vibration from CGCL’s methanol and dimethyl ether (DME) plant.“There are complaints from the residents with respect to noise. Therefore, we want to see if the noise levels are above the prescribed standard and what is contained in the Noise Pollution Control Rules (NPCR) and the Certificate of Environmental Clearance that the EMA granted to CGCL,” Romano told Guardian Media.

“We are aware there are other complaints and we want to look at them, in terms of the flaring. I understand the flaring is supposed to be temporary; just through the commissioning phase. There are also complaints about vibration, which we want to also look at.”

The EMA hopes to meet with the CGCL early next week to discuss the plant’s operations.Yesterday, the CGCL said it acknowledged that the noise levels from its plant at the Union Industrial Estate were above what residents were accustomed to and was concerned about their well-being. In a statement, the company said it had begun monitoring noise levels in the communities outside its buffer zone since the residents started complaining to the company.“CGCL has sought to ascertain the validity of the reported concerns and has commenced monitoring of noise levels throughout the plant and along the perimeter, roadways, access and egress of the Industrial Estate, at intermittent times during the day and night. Additional testing has been conducted within the areas from which the complaints have emanated (Square Deal, Chin Fung Alley, Sobo) to determine source and compliance.”Clive Charles, a resident of Square Deal Road, Vessigny, confirmed EMA officers carried out testing in the area yesterday. He said the residents also informed the officers the noise levels fluctuate during the day and peak at nights. “Earlier this morning, my son downloaded a decibel meter and found the noise level at 78 when 70 is the decibel level (dBA) the plant is supposed to operate. My wife’s nephew, who lives lower down the road, said he is not sleeping well because he lives in a wooden house. Another neighbour, three houses down, also lives in a wooden house. He said by two and three in the morning, he gets up and cannot go back and sleep because of the noise,” Charles said.“My friend up ‘Mary Mack’ said when he checked his phone this morning, the noise ranged between 74 to 89 (dBA). He said it was spiking during the night.”

According to the NPCR, the continuous prescribed standard for general areas is 80 dBa from 8 am-8 pm, and 65 dBA between 8 pm-8 am. Romano admitted that while noise metering apps give an idea of the noise levels in an area, it is not the equipment approved for measuring sound. However, he said the EMA has specialised, calibrated equipment that is in line with the requirements in the NPCR.On Thursday, residents reached out to Guardian Media, saying since the startup of the plant on August 17 they have been suffering from headaches due to the noise and vibration from the plant. Residents along Square Deal Road said the vibrations have started to damage their homes and some are now calling for relocation.Residents said CGCL invited them to a meeting before the plant started operation on August 17. Following their complaints about the noise, they said the company sent Health Safety and Environment officers to carry out acoustic noise testing and found the levels within an acceptable range. Residents met with newly-elected La Brea MP Stephen Mc Clashie on Thursday to voice their concerns. Calls to Mc Clashie yesterday were not answered. Residents said Mc Clashie promised to report their problems to the EMA and the Government. The CGCL said it was aware the residents lodged complaints with the EMA and intends to cooperate with the investigation.