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Thick smoke fails to stop hustlers
Groups of hustlers, some barebacked, others in shorts, and all without face masks, continued to rummage through the Beetham landfill yesterday, hours after it was declared closed by Solid Waste Management Company Ltd (SWMCOL) as concerns over public health heightened. The decision to close the dump was the result of advice from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
Yesterday afternoon, however, trucks still operated within the landfill and men were seen sorting through garbage on the massive site, despite the thick smoke emanating from heaps of garbage. SWMCOL could not give an estimate of when the landfill would be reopened or how long it would take for the situation to return to normal. In a release yesterday, the company also suggested that the fires, which have created a toxic cloud of smoke over the capital and environs since Monday, were man-made.
SWMCOL chair Nalini Sooklal also said they also redirected regular operations to the other landfills at Forres Park and Guanapo to help bring the situation under control. The fires have not yet been extinguished. Sooklal said one area of the landfill was still on fire and SWMCOL would continue to “work assiduously” to dealing with it despite the prevailing wind conditions, which caused a resurgence of smoke in the capital city and environs yesterday.
Smoke was reported in parts of St James yesterday, but according to the EMA air pollution levels were much lower or normal further away from the city. Sooklal said SWMCOL had been working with the EMA to monitor the impact of the fires on the air quality in the affected areas.
“We continue to apologise to the national community for the inconvenience and adverse consequences of these fires. SWMCOL also wishes to advise motorists to exercise caution on the roadways as the resultant smoke has impaired visibility,” said Sooklal.
The National Petroleum Company’s Sea Lots operations also remained closed for a third straight day yesterday due to the situation. However, the company said it does not expect citizens who use LPG gas to be significantly affected by the closure. It said the LPG cylinders were available at other locations across the country. Since Monday, the EMA has been doing air quality tests in areas in and around Port-of-Spain.
According to a release yesterday, the test done on Monday at the site closest to the source of the smoke near Sea Lots showed the particulates present in the atmosphere were more than 13 times the limit set in the Draft Air Pollution Rules.
Particulates are particles suspended in the air, and can remain suspended for long periods. They are a key component of air pollution and smog, the release said.
“Particulates affect the environment as it contributes to greenhouse gases, and affects human health as they can easily reach the deepest recesses of the lungs, leading to respiratory ailments according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” the release said. The test done in downtown Port- of-Spain reportedly revealed readings more than ten times the limit, and the test near the Mucurapo foreshore (the test site furthest from the source) revealed readings more than twice the limit.
A test done yesterday, however, showed the air quality within the Port-of-Spain area had returned to normality, the release said. But the air close to the landfill remained polluted.