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President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group Edward Moodie shows some of the dead birds, crab and conch which residents alleged is caused by leaking waste from a company.

 

Barrackpore residents say they are falling ill from petrochemical fumes that have contaminated the South Oropouche River, killing plants, wildlife and marine life.

Last night the Environmental Management Authority confirmed it has started investigations into reports of the discharge of petrochemical waste in Barrackpore.

Residents from Kanhai Trace have accused a waste disposal company of dumping waste in a concrete drain that connects to the river.

Vashti Ramdeo said, “They are dumping chemicals in the drain. In the evenings you cannot come out the front door. My granddaughter eyes burning and the stench is worse at night. It killing all the fishes in the river because the drains flow into the river.”

Another resident Ramdeo Ramsawak said since the start of the month the stench of petrochemical waste has been lingering in the village, causing residents to experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness and coughs.

“This is poisoning us. Two days ago my son Kelvin who is 22 years old started to vomit as well. We are uncomfortable and cannot stay in our own house,” he said.

He added, “Right now my tonsils not functioning and we getting plenty headaches. I don’t even have money to buy food, much less tablets. Right now I am dying slowly with this smell.”

When Guardian Media visited, the smell of the chemical was intense. The grass on the periphery of the company was parched and Ramsawak said some of his crops including coconut trees have been adversely affected.

Meanwhile, the president of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action group Edward Moodie welcomed an investigation by the EMA. “There is environmental contamination in the vegetation. Recently a cow ate the contaminated grass and died. For weeks residents have been complaining about this. With heavy rains, the waste washes into the drains and rivers. They believe during the wee hours of the morning the tanker is open and the product is allowed to leak into the drains to wash away.”

He also called on major oil companies to follow up with waste disposal companies to determine where the waste is dumped after cleanup occurs.

Moodie said they will stop all activity at the facility unless a proper investigation is done.

Meanwhile, the EMA in a statement said it’s Emergency Response and Investigating Unit (ERI) and Permit Monitoring and Complaints Unit (PMC) conducted a preliminary investigation at the facility in Barrackpore in the vicinity of the South Oropouche River.

However, the Director of a waste disposal company in Barrackpore dismissed allegations that it has been disposing of chemicals in the South Oropouche River, causing residents to fall ill.

The director said chemical waste is not stored at its compound.

“The Drums and IBC’s seen are empty and awaiting further processing at another facility,” the director said.

Asked whether it had investigated improper disposal of petrochemical waste, the director said, “Management has been informed of the complaint and has investigated. There was maintenance work at the facility last week which entailed driveway repairs. Due to the heavy rainfall, we used a vacuum truck to remove excess water off the roadway to facilitate the concrete resurfacing and the wastewater that was sucked up was discharged into our concrete drain which is connected to a sump.”

He added, “ It is important to note our facility drains are not connected to the river at the back of the property nor is it directly connected to the front drain but to a sump.”

He said the company had a formal documented procedure on proper waste disposal that has been approved by the relevant authorities and is strictly adhered to.

He noted that the EMA has not contacted them but added that this was not the first time that his company has been unfairly blamed.

“We had a situation in the distant past with a similar allegation being levied against us with the same claim being made by residents about a high chemical smell and a die-off of fish in the river. After the investigation by the authorities, it was determined that was caused by a duck farm higher up the river,” he said.

He noted that the river behind his compound has altered without the permission of the relevant authorities.

“This contributes significantly to the flooding in the area and when it floods our compound is adversely affected,” he added.

Don’t blame us says the waste disposal company
 
The Director of a waste disposal company in Barrackpore has dismissed allegations that it has been disposing of chemicals in the South Oropouche River, causing residents to fall ill.
In an interview with Guardian Media, the director said chemical waste is not stored at its compound.

“The Drums and IBC’s seen are empty and awaiting further processing at another facility,” the director said.

Asked whether it had investigated improper disposal of petrochemical waste, the director said, “Management has been informed of the complaint and has investigated. There was maintenance work at the facility last week which entailed driveway repairs. Due to the heavy rainfall, we used a vacuum truck to remove excess water off the roadway to facilitate the concrete resurfacing and the wastewater that was sucked up was discharged into our concrete drain which is connected to a sump.”

He added, “It is important to note our facility drains are not connected to the river at the back of the property nor is it directly connected to the front drain but to a sump.”

He said the company had a formal documented procedure on proper waste disposal that has been approved by the relevant authorities and is strictly adhered to. 

“Like in any organization if an employee does not abide by the rules and regulations of the organization there are repercussions. We have procedures in place to ensure that waste is properly received and treated,” he added.

He noted that the EMA has not contacted them but added that this was not the first time that his company has been unfairly blamed.

“We had a situation in the distant past with a similar allegation being levied against us with the same claim being made by residents about a high chemical smell and a die-off of fish in the river. After the investigation by the authorities, it was determined that was caused by a duck farm higher up the river,” he said.

He noted that the river behind his compound has altered without the permission of the relevant authorities. 

“This contributes significantly to the flooding in the area and when it floods our compound is adversely affected,” he added.