Oct 26, 2020 News
– EPA says no impact assessment needed
Kaieteur News – Residents living around the environs of Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara, are objecting to the planned construction of an oil waste treatment plant and a chemical storage and warehouse facility near their homes.
The construction is expected to commence shortly but residents are now seeking legal advice, expressing grave concerns over the impact of the operations on the environment and those living in the area.
Even more concerning is the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that these projects – meant to treat the harmful solids and waste oil produced by Guyana’s expanding oil and gas industry – do not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
These studies are normally conducted prior to construction.
The EPA published a notice on September 27th, listing projects that were submitted for environmental authorization.
Among those were the construction and operation of a “Waste Treatment Plant at Plot “A21” Plantation Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara” being undertaken by Oilfield Waste Management Services (OWMS).
The notice also spoke of the construction and operation of a “Chemical Storage and Warehouse Facility and Laydown Yard, A3 & A4, Plantation Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara” being undertaken by Glass Holdings Inc.
Mapped images showed that both facilities would be housed in close proximity to residential housing schemes, including Eccles and Windsor Estate, a gated community that is home to several prominent business owners.
On that very notice, the EPA said: “In accordance with Section 11 (2) of the Environmental Protection Act, Cap 20:05, Laws of Guyana, the application for each project listed above has been screened by the agency to assess its potential environmental impacts and it has been determined that these projects will not significantly affect the environment or human health, and therefore are exempt from the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).”
But that bit did not sit well with residents living there.
One resident who requested anonymity told Kaieteur News in an interview that: “The EPA ruled that the analysis is not needed, so they are not requiring it. Well, that is very unsettling. It seems to me that petroleum waste and products have high vapor pressures and consequently will leak into the immediate atmosphere and surroundings with the best of intentions. This means that air quality and its effects on our health and our homes are of a major concern.”
Summaries of the projects were posted to the EPA’s website detailing what will be housed at the facilities.
For the Chemical Storage and Warehouse Facility, GLASS Holdings Inc. stated that they planned to store chemicals such as “Asphaltene Inhibitor, Corrosion inhibitor, Biocide, Hydrate Inhibitor, Demulsifier, Chlorine Scavenger, Defoamer and Hydrate Inhibitor.”
Those chemicals, it said, would be stored in ISO Tanks constructed from 316 stainless steel meant to hold 5,000 gallons, plastic tanks constructed of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) meant to hold 275 gallons and steel drums constructed from carbon steel either lined or lined meant to hold 55 gallons.
For the Oil Waste Treatment Plant, Oilfield Waste Management Services (OWMS) said that they planned to construct “a thermal desorption waste treatment plant.”
It said the plant is based on a thermal desorption separator (hammer mill) which uses friction to heat wastes so that oil residue are evaporated.
The evaporated oil and water contents are then condensed and recaptured or separated. The remaining solids can then be safely disposed or reused.
Further, OWMS plans to recycle the recaptured oil so that it can be used in the Liquid Mud Plant manufacturing process. The solid wastes will be used in the bitumen (asphalt) manufacturing process and in addition, no solids are expected to be sent to landfills, it said.
Already in the area, residents are hit with the fumes emanating from the Haags Bosch Landfill Site at Eccles. With the construction of the chemical plant, the Peter’s Hall resident said, the neighbourhood would be hit twice with the harmful fumes.
“There is already a similar facility at GYSBI and the chimney emits mainly water vapor but also a slight smell, which is noticeable when the wind changes direction,” she explained “It had EPA attention. Luckily that plant is close to the river and with the North East prevailing winds it blows over the Demerara River but in our case Windsor would be directly downwind and we get a double dose from the garbage dump and this processing plant.”
Turning their attention to the chemical storage facility, one stakeholder noted that while the threshold for approval by the EPA was “rather low”, transport issues should be a critical point.
Explaining further, the resident said that “the major danger of spills is with road accidents. We all know the condition of the road, very narrow, major embankment slippages resulting in road deformation, potholes. In my opinion, this is where the real danger is. A scenario like a truck loaded with chemical crashed and ends up in the drainage canal and a few containers fall. Those chemicals get into the water and our supply is contaminated.”
A bigger issue, too, the resident added, is whether the rules of zoning apply for such facilities to be constructed, so close to residential areas.
“Zoning industrial entities amidst established residential entities is a recipe for depressing property values and quality of life.”
What should have happened, it was stated, was for consultations to be done with the residents and most importantly, the EIA before approval to build is granted.
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