RADHICA DE SILVA
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) is denying that it has concluded its investigations into the discharge of petrochemical waste in Barrackpore which has caused residents to fall sick.
Responding to Guardian Media’s questions, the EMA said in response to a complaint on September 10, 2021 the EMA’s Emergency Response and Investigating Unit (ERI) and Permit Monitoring and Complaints Unit (PMC) conducted two site visits on 13th and 16th September respectively at a facility in Barrackpore in the vicinity of the South Oropouche River.
“The investigators visited an operation.... and the owners advised the EMA that the site is only utilised for storage of electronic and plastic waste material. The EMA’s investigations are continuing and may involve other agencies with jurisdiction on this matter to determine the exact source of the effluent discharge and recommended actions,” the EMA said.
Kanhai Trace residents have accused a waste disposal company in their area of releasing chemical waste into a concrete drain that connects into a tributary of the South Oropouche River.
Last week, during a protest, 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 added.
President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action group Edward Moodie called on the EMA to investigate. He showed dead birds and crabs on the side of the river.
“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,” Moodie said.
In a statement issued to Guardian Media yesterday, the director of the company denied the allegations. He also said his organisation has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the EMA.
“The EMA has completed its investigation of our Barrackpore facility and has found no violations. This clears (name called) of any involvement in the much-publicised issue at Kanhai Road North, Barrackpore. The negative impact of the press coverage on our company over this incident has been tremendous, unwarranted and unfair,” the director said.
In an earlier email, the director said this was not the first time that unfair accusations were levelled against his company.
“We have 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 it was caused by a duck farm higher up the river,” he said.
“The real issue to us is the fact that the river behind our compound has been and continues to be 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.