Date – 29/1/2014
The Environmental Management Authority met with the Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) this morning to assess the current issue regarding the Beetham Landfill fires, and issue a joint statement on the matter.
The EMA has received from SWMCOL a report on the state of the fires which suggests that the fires were not spontaneous but man made in nature. Through surveillance of the area, Dr. Allan Bachan Chairman of the EMA, has advised that based on our meeting with SWMCOL it was jointly agreed that the Beetham Landfill Site, be closed temporarily. Ms Nalini Sooklal, Chairperson of SWMCOL confirmed this and indicated that arrangements have been made to redirect regular operations to the other landfill sites at Forres Park and Guanapo in order to assist in bringing the situation under control in the shortest possible time.
We embrace the mandate of the EMA and will rely on their competence in providing the results of their findings to the necessary national bodies for deliberation and decision as to the course of action necessary, said Ms. Sooklal.
The EMA confirms that on Monday January 27, 2014, air quality tests were conducted at three sites yesterday near Sea Lots, Downtown Port of Spain and near the Foreshore. The air quality tests measured the amounts of particulates in the air. Particulates refer to particles suspended in the atmosphere, and can remain suspended for long periods where they are a key component of air pollution and smog. Particulates affect the environment as it contributes to greenhouse gases, and affects human health as they can they easily reach the deepest recesses of the lungs leading to respiratory ailments according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Readings for the total volume of particulates in the air were measured against the standards outlined in the Draft Air Pollution Rules (APR) (2013) by the EMA.
The EMA further advises that the issue of public health is of grave concern to the Authority, and the air quality test conducted on Monday January 27, 2014 at the site closest to the source of the smoke near Sea Lots revealed that the particulates present in the atmosphere were more than 13 times the limit of the Draft APR. The test conducted in Downtown Port of Spain revealed readings more than 10 times the limit, and the test conducted near the Foreshore (the test site furthest from the source) revealed readings more than twice the limit.
Today additional air quality tests were conducted at St. Clair, around the Queens Park Savannah, Movie Towne and at the Brian Lara Promenade. The results revealed that the air quality has returned to normalcy within the Port of Spain area. Dr. Bachan indicated that the wind factor is currently favourable for Port of Spain and the environs.
Current surveillance of the area suggests that the smoke, coupled with the fluctuating wind direction is impacting areas surrounding the Beetham landfill only. Dr. Bachan confirmed that the wind is directing the smoke off into the sea and high ambient air quality levels are documented only at the Beetham at this time.
Ms. Sooklal said that, “At present, we wish to advise that there is one area of the landfill that is still on fire and we continue to work assiduously in dealing with this area despite the prevailing wind conditions which has brought a resurgence of smoke into the capital city and environs.”
Ms. Sooklal further advised that SWMCOL has, from the onset, been working collaboratively with the EMA to monitor the impacts of these fires on the ambient air quality in the affected areas. We continue to collaborate with the EMA and will be guided accordingly by their recommendations.
“We continue to apologise to the national community for the inconvenience and adverse consequences of these fires. SWMCOL also wishes to advise motorists to exercise caution on the roadways as the resultant smoke has impaired visibility,” said Ms. Sooklal.
The EMA will continue conducting regular air quality monitoring tests and will issue further statements as the need arises and advise the public accordingly.
Dr. Bachan wishes to the advise the public that they should remain calm at this time. “We will continue to coordinate with relevant state agencies and monitor the situation. We will continue to conduct regular air quality tests and would advise the public on further updates as necessary, said Dr. Bachan.