Jan 25, 2021 News
– Agency lacks capacity to do testing
By Shikema Dey
Kaieteur News – An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) can be defined as a critical tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project whether it may be for the construction of a plant or warehouse for industrial or chemical purposes. Once completed, the document which comprises the risks the project would pose to the environment would be assessed for approval by the relevant authorities.
In spite of the importance of this critical report, Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been taking a position of not requiring EIAs for at least five projects dealing directly with a slew of hazardous chemicals used in the petroleum sector. Not only is the move alarming to most industry advocates, but equally concerning is the fact that the agency which is meant to be Guyana’s environmental watchdog, severely lacks the capacity to monitor the influx of chemicals set to increase as the sector expands.
In addition to severely lacking basic capacities such as human resources to assess simple environmental issues, the EPA is also devoid of simple equipment to measure pollutants in the air.
As is required, the EPA would publish public notices listing projects that require its authorization. On those very notices for the projects in queation, the EPA stated: “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 without the requisite equipment to conduct tests or a study to determine the impact which the project will have on the environment and nearby environs, it is unclear how and why the EPA arrived at that conclusion.
Of the five projects, Glass Holdings Inc. had planned to construct a Chemical Storage and Warehouse Facility and Laydown Yard, at A3 & A4, Plantation Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara.
The company had outlined in its project summary that it planned to store chemicals such as Asphaltene Inhibitor, Corrosion inhibitor, Biocide, Hydrate Inhibitor, Demulsifier, Chlorine Scavenger, Defoamer and Hydrate Inhibitor.
Then there was Ramps Logistics with the construction of an oilfield services and supplies storage and container transfer facility meant to store and process similar chemicals.
Later on, Oilfield Waste Management Services (OWMS) announced plans to construct a thermal desorption waste treatment plant based on a thermal desorption separator (hammer mill) that uses friction to heat wastes so that oil residue are evaporated.
Another form, Environmental Waste Management Services Guyana Inc., has planned the construction of waste treatment (Bioremediation) facility at Lots 21 and 22 Block XXV111 Zone, Plantation Friendship, East Bank Demerara (EBD) to process mud sludge generated from activities in the oil sector.
The most recent project to seek the EPA’s approval is that of John Fernandes Limited with the construction of a Hazardous Materials Storage Facility at Plantation Fairfield, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara (ECD) to process and store Asphaltene Inhibitor, Corrosion inhibitor, Biocide, Biocide Filter, Hydrate Inhibitor, Demulsifier, Chlorine Scavenger, Defoamer and Hydrate Inhibitors.
The common denominator in these projects was the fact that they would all be located in proximity to residential housing areas and even in one case, in proximity to a community reservoir.
While the EPA stipulates a 30-day period for complaints and objections to be lodged, that deadline would be missed by concerned residents who only discover the small notice tucked away in the local newspapers weeks after.
By that time, the projects would be given the stamp of approval leaving residents to deal whatever harmful effects that follow.
Guyana’s response capacity was already tested in a major way after a “Rheduce” chemical spill at the Guyana National Industrial Company (GNIC) leading to the EPA putting a halt on chemicals being stored at the wharf.
A forklift pierced the container holding the chemical that was left at the facility for months after being imported by Schlumberger Guyana. While the chemical placed no harm on the environment and human life, what was worrying about the incident was that the EPA was notified more than nine hours after the spill had occurred.
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