Teams have been appointed by President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess the operations of a rice mill at Cane Grove, East Coast Demerara, which residents say has continually produced dust clouds over the past 10 years, enveloping their homes and causing them health problems.
Jagdeo and Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud met Cane Grove residents on the issue at the Office of the President yesterday, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported last evening.
It noted that some 300 residents are reported to be affected by the dust emanating during operations of the mill, which is located in closeproximity to the residential settlement. The team appointed by Jagdeo is to assess whether the miller is in full compliance with the EPA regulations, GINA said. It added that residents reported that the situation only abates in the out-of-crop season, which lasts for a period of 10 weeks.
GINA said that while the probe was welcomed by residents, Chairman of the Cane Grove Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Bhagwandin Ramsarran said they would continue to maintain their vigilance.
In May, the AFC, which was approached by residents, staged a protest with them over the situation in front of the Health Ministry. At that time, residents had said that they had previously sought the assistance of last Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh, Navin Chandarpal in his capacity as the Science and Environment advisor in the Office of the President, President Jagdeo himself and also PPP presidential candidate Donald Ramotar, all to no avail. They have also said that letters have been sent to the EPA.
“Nobody isn’t doing nothing. Nothing at all,” Dindial Balkissoon said at the time.
During the AFC protest, one disgusted resident, who along with others wore ventilators, stated that “we eat with dust, sleep with dust, wear dust, everything with dust….”
A company representative, while not denying that dust has caused some problems in the past, told Stabroek News that the company had implemented actions ordered by the EPA. The representative said the mill was purchased in 2000 and from that period to 2002, two dryers and some storage bins were built. He said that the residents had complained and between 2002 and 2003, on the orders of the EPA, dust collection systems were installed at the dryers.
The company representative said that between 2004 and 2006, both dryers were fully enclosed at a cost of $76M. He said that recently, the operation expanded and another dryer was constructed and completed last March.
In addition, the representative pointed out that the area is an agricultural area and trucks during harvest time, bring in mud which dries during the dry weather, contributing to the dust problem. “Anything to do with paddy, you get some dust,” he noted.
The man said that the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) had been monitoring the situation. The dust pollution is not as much as the residents claim, he said, adding that with the enclosure of the third dryer, it had reduced significantly.