Even as the authorities consider using river water to flush out a stagnant and smelly canal on the East Bank Demerara, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) is denying that effluent-seepage from its plant at Diamond is responsible for the odour.
The Agriculture Ministry has explained that the canal running parallel to the East Bank Demerara public road from Prospect to the DDL estate connects the Farm-Covent Garden-Prospect-Little Diamond sluices. As a result, the ministry states “it was observed that DDL waste was seeping into the parallel canal.” However DDL refutes these claims and is calling on the ministry to state “by whom and when were these observations made,” since it has no receipt that any checks were made by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority.
“The fact of the matter is that our waste water is completely sealed from the canals that lead into the portions that got the foul odour,” DDL’s Chemical Engineer Shaun Caleb told Stabroek News, while adding that the seal has been in place for at least one year now.
He also denied the claims by the Agriculture Ministry that DDL’s waste water has been seeping into the parallel canal that is controlled by a sluice under the control of the company. He called on those responsible for making “DDL seepage” observations to state when and where these observances were made. He claims that DDL has had no correspondence by any ministry or agency that its factory was in any breach of environmental guidelines. “If they are saying it was observed that DDL is responsible then state when and where these observations were made,” he said.
“It is a surprise to me that there are claims that the cause of that stench would have emanated from DDL’s waste water in any way,” Caleb added.
Meanwhile, in a phone call interview last evening, Little Diamond Community Development Chairman Wilfred Bassant stated that the NDIA yesterday afternoon informed him that engineering works will begin in one week’s time in an effort to rectify the problem. When asked about a possible source or seepage from DDL, he added that there was no concretized information that DDL was responsible. He stated that to the best of his estimation, it is just by word of mouth that these claims are made, since no one is certain.
Further, he said that for some time, upgrading works on the canal were neglected and as a result he looks forward to expeditious efforts to bring relief to residents of the area.
According to the ministry, the NDIA has made a number of recommendations to avoid a recurrence. These include repairs to the abandoned sluice door to stop the seepage of the waste, cleaning of the parallel canal and that DDL operates the sluice door under its control to release its waste.
Pending talks between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DDL on waste management, the Agriculture Ministry says the relevant authorities were considering using river water to flush out the stink water.
“To bring an immediate relief to the residents, water from the Demerara River could be let into the drainage system under controlled management to flush out the discolored and foul smelling water,” the ministry said in response to several questions dispatched to the Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud.
The ministry said work would begin this week to seal the leak and clear the canal to eradicate the smell and ensure the smooth flow of water. No time frame and cost of the remedial works could have been provided immediately because assessments were still being conducted.
For his part, DDL’s Chemical Engineer informed that part of the problem is that the water was stagnant towards the end of the canal that abridging DDL’s property.
“Whatever has gotten into the water is not moving and therefore is allowing for this deterioration of the water quality, hence the smell,” Caleb said.
He noted that DDL has already desilted part of the canal, evidenced by the movement of water closer to the koker. The company is also in contact with the NDIA.
Emphasizing that there was no possibility of water from DDL’s canal getting into the canal that runs from Little Diamond to Prospect, the DDL official observed that there are a number of entry-points along the way through which seepage could occur.
He said DDL has records to show that when the koker was under repairs, a tractor-powered pump had been installed and working to prevent the water from rising and compromising the other canal.
Meanwhile, residents claim that although some relief was had after DDL’s desilting exercise, they await the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) to tackle its part to bring total relief from the foetid canal that has brought them much discomfort. “DDL is desilt one part but the water still stagnant and it ease but nothing much, they said the NDC will do the rest but we still waiting,” one resident said.