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The Environmental Management Authority
(EMA) yesterday said the air quality in Port-
of-Spain had stabilised, although authorities
were still working to put out the remaining
fire at the Beetham landfill.
The fire created another cloud of toxic smoke
over the capital for a fourth straight day, forcing
scores of citizens to flee the city once again.
With respect to the air-quality tests, the
EMA said they monitored the air for:
• particulate matter
• volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
• carbon monoxide
• sulphur dioxide.
It said particulate matter speaks to the size
of the particles that contribute to poor air qual-
ity and the size of particles that will affect the
most vulnerable among the population---asth-
matics and those with prevailing lung infections.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), it noted,
can be carcinogenic or cancer-causing agents,
while carbon monoxide can cause asphyxia.
It assured the public that the tests revealed
these components were at safe and acceptable
levels, in accordance with the EMA s Draft Air
Pollution Rules, within the Port-of-Spain area
up to yesterday.
The EMA said, however, that the testing will
continue and the public will notified if any
Friday, January 31, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Environmentalists turn heat on ODPM boss
for 30th JANUARY, 2014
EMA: PoS air
at safe levels
Office of Disaster Preparedness and
Management CEO Dr Stephen Ramroop
yesterday came under fire from environ-
mentalists for saying burning rubbish,
including plastic, in back yards could pro-
duce similar levels of air pollution to the
levels currently being emitted by Beetham
Ramroop made the comment during an
inter-agency press conference at the National
Operations Centre in Port-of-Spain, as he
said people were panicking unnecessarily
because the situation at the Beetham landfill
was not a disaster, even as smoke from the
landfill continued to cover the capital in a
cloud of toxic fumes which forced the shut-
down of schools, business and government
offices for a fourth straight day.
"When we light our fires there are more
toxins than SWMCOL (Solid Waste Man-
agement Company), because they have been
doing a marvellous job," Ramroop said at
the press conference
"A disaster is when people are affected,
livelihoods are affected or people are injured.
This is an environmental hazard that has
He said to a large extent, people s lives
had not been affected.
Environmentalists, however, took issue
with those statements.
Stephen Broadbridge, of the environmen-
tal group Papa Bois Conservation, described
them as "scary" and "ignorant."
"We are surrounded with pollution...I
don t know what the health in the country
will be like in the future," Broadbridge said.
He said he felt the fire at the Beetham
landfill was a wake-up call.
"Sometimes human beings need to feel
the effects before things happen," he said.
"Burning garbage in backyards is a prob-
lem, but how can you compare that to the
toxins coming from the Beetham? The fact
that he feels that way is the scariest thing."
Broadbridge said there should not even
be a landfill at the site because the Gov-
ernment should know better.
"The rest of the world is recycling; we
are creating an environmental problem.
Everything in that dump has value, every-
thing can make money. We are so behind."
Broadbridge also raised the question of
what materials were being placed in the
"Who regulates what goes in? What about
"We do not even know what is in the
fumes. We don t know what is being
Environmentalist Marc de Verteuil, also
of Papa Bois, said the problem of the pol-
lution from the site was decades old.
"It is not a new problem but it is a dan-
gerous matter," he said.
De Verteuil also expressed concern about
the information released so far by the Envi-
ronmental Management Authority (EMA).
"The EMA seems to only be measuring
particulate matter, which is mostly dust,
and they are not measuring the toxins."
He said the smoke contained "dioxins,
recognised carcinogens (that) can cause birth
deformities and other illnesses."
De Verteuil also highlighted the fact that
some plastics contained cyanide, which was
being inhaled by the population. He said
the EMA was also being disingenuous in
referring to the air pollution rules when
there was no legislation to support them.
"The rules are still a draft...It is duplicitous
to act as though we have a permitted level
when we have no legislation to deal with
this," de Verteuil said.
"The solution is recycling and separation
of waste. We can recycle at least 80 per
cent of our waste.
"We can close down the dumps if we do
this and engineer the Forres Park dump to
a proper landfill. We are slowly being poi-
soned. Government needs to implement
recycling and waste separation."
a wake-up call
The EMA again listed health and safety
tips to the public from health officials.
• If you suffer from respiratory and related
illnesses such as asthma, be vigilant about
taking your medications as prescribed, and
keep then on hand should you need to
evacuate at a moment's notice.
• If you experience one or more of these
shortness of breath, red/irritated eyes,
nausea or vomiting, headache or throat
irritation---you should seek medical care.
• When using the air conditioning in your
car near the impacted areas, ensure that it is
set to circulate internal air until you are clear
of the smoke cloud.
Customers find the doors to the Royal Bank of Canada's Independence Square, Port-of-
Spain, branch locked tight yesterday, after the bank took the decision to send home its
employees due to the toxic fumes which engulfed the capital from a fire on the Beetham
landfill. PHOTO: MARRYANN AUGUSTE
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