Dec 08, 2021 News
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has waived an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the hazardous waste treatment facility at Houston, East Bank Demerara, even though the operator, Tiger Rentals Guyana Inc. has its plant within range of residential properties and even schools.
In confirming the suspicions of Environmentalist Simone Mangal-Joly, the Executive Director of EPA, Mr. Kemraj Parsram explained that while an EIA was not required, an Environmental Management Plan was submitted to the regulator. According to Parsram, “Subsequent to the Environmental Audit conducted in 2019, an Environmental Assessment was conducted to update the EMP. As a requirement, the company also completed a Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC) and Waste analysis Plan to further complement the EMP. Aspects of WAC were taken into consideration by EEPGL in the recently conducted Cradle to Grave Waste Analysis”.
Mangal-Jolly in an interview with Kaieteur News recently highlighted her concerns over the fact that ExxonMobil’s fourth project, the Yellowtail development Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) does not say how much toxic waste will be coming to shore, or its potential impacts. “The current Yellowtail EIA does not address waste treatment to an extent that meets assessment or legal thresholds required of an EIA. The total quantity of waste coming to shore, specific toxicities of components and health and ecological risks are not comprehensively addressed, nor are the impacts of treatment of hazardous components and subsequent dumping,” Mangal-Joly explained.
She had previously told this newspaper that Section 5(a) (1) of the Environmental Protection Act clearly states that an EIA must address the “physical characteristics of the whole project and land use requirements” and that the Yellowtail EIA conducted by consulting firm Environmental Resources Management fails to do this as it does not adequately account for the waste brought onshore.
In calling out oil giant ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) for its deficient EIA, Mangal-Joly noted, that “In the case of Yellowtail, toxic waste generated from offshore activities only exists because of those activities, its entire life cycle forms part of the whole project. A proper EIA would address the exact quantity of waste for the life of the project, name the toxic components and how these could affect human health or ecology, specify how they are treated to remove their toxicity, assess the capacity and safety of treatment facilities, and assess the capacity and safety of the final resting place or dumpsite for the waste, considering the total volume of waste for the life of the project and the land use requirements for its disposal.”
According to the distinguished Guyanese Environmentalist, Exxon’s Yellowtail EIA refers to a Comprehensive Waste Management Plan (CWMP) that will be used for the management of all EEPGL’s waste. This plan however, is not yet on stream and is to be approved by the EPA. However, she says that it is procedurally incorrect for the EPA to permit the development of mitigation measures and Yellowtail’s waste handling plan outside of the EIA process and EIA’s statutory requirements for public scrutiny. She explained that she only became aware of how the EPA was operating when she attended a consultation in July of this year for the Gas to Energy project. She has recently been looking into the previous approvals given by the Agency and was shocked to find that previous Environmental Permits were granted to EEPGL for offshore production without proper accounting for shore-based waste treatment and disposal in their Environmental Impact Assessments.
In her view, these EIAs did not meet the legal and logical thresholds for a complete EIA and should never have been accepted by the Environmental Assessment Board. She stated that: “The EPA would be violating the Environmental Protection Act as it applies to the current Yellowtail EIA process if it did not ensure that all of Yellowtail’s offshore waste brought to shore was properly accounted within the current EIA process.”
She also pointed out that the Yellowtail EIA document refers to Tiger Rentals Guyana Inc. (TRG), located at the Guyana Shorebase Inc. (GYSBI) facility as currently the primary provider of hazardous and non-hazardous waste treatment services in Guyana. However, she could not find an EIA for Tiger Rentals Inc. and it appears that the Environmental Protection Agency waived the requirement for an EIA for this facility. According to Mangal-Joly, in so doing the EPA deprived the public of the opportunity to participate in the assessment of impacts from a facility treating hazardous waste, which is located where people live in Houston, just across the road from Houston Secondary School and a block down from Houston Nursery School.
“Imagine that our EPA thought it fit and fair to our people to waive the requirements for a hazardous waste treatment facility for an industry and activity that is brand new to the country” she stated, adding that “To date the effect has been to hide the impacts of hazardous waste brought to shore, its treatment, and safety of disposal from public scrutiny. We have been deprived of our statutory rights to participate in the assessment of impacts under the Environmental Protection Act.”
She explained, that “The matter of how hazardous waste coming to shore is handled should be of concern to all Guyanese. The quantities of toxic and other waste, health, and ecological risks of each of their constituent parts, and how they are treated and disposed of are critical issues, as the toxic waste treatment facilities are in areas where people live, all are high risk for flooding and creating a toxic soup on the coast, and our coastal ground water aquifers are at risk. We stand to lose a lot. We need to understand the value of what we currently have, both in terms of quality of life and health and monetary terms, and we need to protect ourselves and our valuable natural resources that could be despoiled”.
Therefore, Mangal-Joly noted that the Yellowtail EIA cannot be accepted as it stands, due to this and other deficiencies and violations of the EPA Act. She said, “In fact, we cannot continue to accept the way the EPA is doing its job. It has been five years of oil. We have no excuse for being so far behind in our understanding of what constitutes a credible EIA or our ability to regulate this industry. The EPA must do the right thing and correct course. It can start with this Yellowtail EIA.”
However, she added that to do its job and protect our health and natural assets the EPA needs to be able to operate more independently and should be allocated more resources if it is to stand on its own two feet in dealing with the powerful multinational corporations that comprise the oil industry.
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