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Officers get sick over broken septic tank

Published: 
Friday, August 22, 2014

The Santa Cruz Fire Station was shut down yesterday with most of its staff being taken to hospital after complaining of feeling unwell due to fumes from a broken septic tank. According to reports, the 16 fire officers began complaining of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea shortly after reporting for duty yesterday morning at the station on Saddle Road, Santa Cruz

All the officers, except the sentry on duty, were taken to the St James District Hospital, treated and sent home. When a news team from the T&T Guardian went to the station yesterday afternoon, the front gate was locked and a steady flow of dark liquid, emitting a pungent, noxious smell, was seen bubbling out of the wood-covered underground tank.

In an interview outside the building, assistant secretary of the Fire Officers Association Leo Ramkissoon said the sewer system at the front of the building had been damaged for over two months. “I don’t know if it was the rain in the morning but the smell was so much that all the officers became ill,” Ramkissoon said. Pointing to a large portable toilet unit parked in the station’s garage and to a new plastic waste containment tank sitting metres away from the broken tank cover, Ramkissoon admitted senior fire officials recognised the problem and were addressing it.
 
However, he said, his organisation advised its members at the station to refuse to enter the building as the broken septic tank had become a threat to their health and safety. “We have advised them to report for duty at their nearest fire station until repairs are done,” Ramkissoon said. He claimed the situation had the potential of affecting residents nearby as the liquid was flowing unto the sidewalk and into an open shallow drain at the side of the road. 

Contacted yesterday, Chief Fire Officer Nayar Rampersad said the material needed to rectify the problem was already delivered to the site and construction work would begin soon. While he highlighted the potential consequence of the closure of the station on residents of Santa Cruz and neighbouring communities, Rampersad questioned the timing of the incident as he said the sewer problem existed since the station was built. “Everytime there is a little incident they blow it out of proportion and call the media. We have been attending to this in the best possible way. At the end of the day we have to fix it,” Rampersad said. 

As he described the fire officers’ reaction yesterday as “confusion and public mischief”, Rampersad said: “It brings benefits to no one.”