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Medical waste buried near Freeport homes
Hazardous medical waste has been dumped in the middle of a residential community in Freeport, leaving residents fearful it may be a health hazard. The site, on an empty lot, is run by Quantum Disposal and Recycling Services Ltd, owned by Kelvin Ramnath Jr, son of the late chairman of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and former energy minister Kelvin Ramnath. Ramnath Snr, who also worked as the head of Petrotrin’s health, safety and environment department, died last July. Sources said since his death, hazardous materials, including blood vials, syringes, needles and urine sample cups, had been buried next to the company’s “storage bay”.
The waste was found after a dog dragged a bag of it into a yard at Valley Trace, Maingot Road, Calcutta Road No 2, Freeport. When the T&T Guardian visited the site, heaps of syringes and exposed needles were seen. Bottles of pharmaceutical waste—expired, unused pharmaceutical products, drugs and vaccines, as well as bandages—were strewn on the ground. Inside the “storage bay,” barrels were lined up and medical bins were stacked high with unidentified, unlabelled waste. Taslim Roopnarine, who lives close by, said it would be easy for residents to contract viral and bacterial infections. “I am frustrated because since they buried the waste, the drains have been clogged and all the hazardous waster is flowing into my yard. I do not know what kind of waste it is and we are very worried,” Roopnarine said. He added that his children—Devika, nine, and Avinash, five—were ill. “Every time it rains the water from the dump site flows into my house. My children sick right now and we want the EMA to act on this,” Roopnarine said.
In fact, Ramnath was in the post for almost exactly a year, from his appointment in July 2011 to his death in July 2012. Contacted yesterday, an official of Quantum Disposal and Recycling Services, John Thomson, denied the site was a dumping ground. He said he did not know if anything was buried there as he had not visited the facility for over a year. He said an incinerator had been bought and there were plans to ask for permission from the EMA to operate the disposal site. Thomson said the company also planned to clean up the site as soon as possible and incinerate the medical waste.
Ramnath, contacted on his cellular phone, also denied any dumping and said his company had the waste stored in a fenced compound. The EMA’s chairman Dr Joth Singh said he would be sending a team to the site to investigate. “I am very concerned about this, especially since it is medical waste,” Singh said. “Once the investigations are completed, we will see if they have been engaging in the illegal disposal of hazardous substances or operating a disposal facility without the permission of the EMA.” Land Resources Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday directed queries about the hazardous dumping to Environment Minister Ganga Singh who could not be contacted by phone.