It appears Nalco Champions, a company intending to provide chemical services to ExxonMobil when oil production starts, was misled when it started constructing what is meant to be a chemical storage facility on land owned by John Fernandes Limited at Area ‘K’ Houston.
This was the observation made Orson Simon, an official from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA).
The company has faced fierce resistance from the residents of Plantation Houston and surrounding communities after it was revealed that it wanted to build the plant. But it was later revealed that it had not yet got the necessary permissions to do so.
During a community consultation held by the Ministry of Communities, yesterday, at Houston Secondary School, Simon said that when CH&PA was called by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to a meeting at the proposed site, they had found that the site was already constructed.
“I am not here to make an excuse for Nalco.” Simon said, but “somebody right in our dear land of Guyana misled the people, told them they can do X. When they reached a bottleneck, and we met with them… we met at the site, and they agreed right there and then to stop the construction.”
The company had announced, last month, that it would cease all activity on site.
Phillip Fernandes, of John Fernandes Limited, made it clear that the current structure, which consists essentially of a shed, was not built buy Nalco.
“Nothing has, since, been added to that shed.” Orson said.
“So when they were told that they’re going wrong, immediately, they tried to take the right stand.”
The proposed chemical storage facility is on a John Fernandes Inland Terminal. Recently, Houston residents kicked up a ruckus about the use of the land for industrial purposes, as they were given the impression that the land there would only be used for commercial purposes.
Fernandes said, “[John Fernandes Limited] was given some indication that what we were trying to do falls within the normal processes, procedures and operations within the property.”
But it was revealed by the Chief Development Planner at CH&PA, Germene Stewart, that a number of other structures on the same property were erected but had not been approved. When the CH&PA found out about the operations involving those structures, it had them brought to a halt.
The continuation of the work on the proposed chemical storage facility is subject to a series of permissions and regulations by the local actors involved. Vital to that process is the conduction of an environmental impact assessment by the EPA.
During the consultation, a presentation was done by Nalco, with the hope of dispelling misconceptions about the proposed facility.
The company first made it clear that the facility would be a chemical storage and transfer facility, not a chemical processing facility. It was stressed that there would be no chemical reactions or blending, permanent storage tanks, buried chemical tanks, vapor clouds/steam, flaring, nor vent flumes.
The warehouse is intended to be used for the storage of products and equipment, repackaging and filtering of chemicals, office space, and transportation from the facility to a supply vessel to be taken offshore.
All the chemicals would be brought from the company’s manufacturing plant in Sugar Land, Texas.
Concerns have been raised time and time again, about the effect a chemical spill would have on the surrounding communities. The company, during its presentation, detailed its plan for the containment of spills and fires.
Asked whether these have occurred at facilities of similar nature elsewhere, Project Manager Willy Miller, said that none of Nalco’s major facilities have had a fire. And as far as spills go, he said that all of the major plants are all contained, “and anything that they drip, they clean it up as well.”
He added, “When we talk about spills, we don’t talk about… when you dump a whole drum. If you make a few drops on the ground, that’s considered to us to be a spill.”
Fernandes said that both parties, JFL and Nalco, would be insured for the likelihood of a spill.
Nalco’s representatives indicated that for the disposal of waste, it will be conducting business with Tiger Tanks, a local company who it says has the capacity to dispose, effectively, of hazardous waste.
Another contention raised by residents was that another location, further from residential communities could have been used for this facility.
Asked whether Nalco considered other locations, Miller said that it did, but that the one at the JFL terminal was a much more convenient location. He also said that other locations were found to be undesirable because, in one case, one of them was close to where people lived. And in another, it was near a mattress facility.
Charles Ceres and Kent Phillips, two residents at yesterday’s meeting, spoke of the likelihood that their property values would plummet if the terminal is used for a chemical facility. They said that they hoped the residents would be compensated for reductions in their property values.
Ceres also raised the contention that a forum is necessary which would include more stakeholders, as he explained that the timing and date of yesterday’s meeting excluded many persons who could not have left their jobs to participate and raise their own concerns.
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