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NGC: It was just a spraying exercise
Chairman of the National Building Code Committee Shyankaran Lalla has dismissed reports from both the National Gas Company and Plipdeco chairman Ian Atherly that the pungent smell which enveloped parts of Couva yesterday and forced an evacuation of workers and students was not a gas leak.
“My information is that there was a disruption of a natural gas line near the golf course,” Lalla said in a telephone interview yesterday evening, two days after he had raised concerns about the infrastructural integrity of the lines on the estate, maintenance, inspection and adherence to the OSH regulations. Lalla called on the NGC, Atherly and Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh to tell the truth.
“It seems they have learnt nothing from the Petrotrin oil spill which is costing that company millions of dollars. When they cover up small incidents, then you will have the big ones,” Lalla cautioned. Atherly initially confirmed yesterday morning that in a conversation with Indarsingh he was told the scent had emanated from a warehouse at NGC. He said Indarsingh responded to calls from schools, business people and residents about the strong gas scent which invaded his constituency from early yesterday morning.
Around mid-morning, Atherly said he was informed by Indarsingh that the scent emanated from the spraying of malatian at the Sevilla Club. “I have been liaising with Mr Indarsingh and first it was a gas leak in a warehouse and the second update is that it was caused by the spraying of malatian. I am awaiting a report from my HSE people, headed by Gerrel Traboulay,” Atherly said,.
In a third telephone conversation around noon, Atherly confirmed that his HSE staff, together with the NGC HSE team toured the area from Balmain to Mc Bean, where they checked every gas junction in and outside of the estate and nothing was found. “What they said they uncovered was in fact a spraying exercise was being conducted at the Sevilla Club.
I was told chemicals malatian and phosphorous were used for this exercise and this is where the scent emanated from,” Atherly said. He said the Sevilla Club is operated by the Sports Company of T&T. NGC, in a release from corporate communication manager Charmaine Mohammed, also confirmed that the scent was not due to a gas leak but from a spraying exercise. Lalla rejected these explanations, pointing out that malatian was commonly used by Caroni (1975) Limited to spray crops in the past.
“So the people of Couva know the difference between gas and malatian and what was emanating yesterday was gas.” He added: “My information came from people working on the plant. A senior operator said the leak was up by the golf course and said ‘they were keeping everything low.’ “If there was no gas leak why then did the Sevilla Club evacuate, why did the Atlantic Plaza evacuate. I would advise Atherly, Indarsingh and NGC to do some further investigations to safeguard the lives of the people in that community,” Lalla said.