Charles Ceres must be commended for the interest shown in the Linden dust nuisance

Dear Editor,

A letter in the Stabroek News of March 15th 2012: `BOSAI’s proposed expansion should be viewed with concern given its history of environmental non-compliance’, by Charles P. Ceres has once again raised many serious concerns and questions, shedding further light on the ubiquitous age- old dust nuisance that is a main characteristic and permanent feature within the bauxite operations, the Town and the long overdue dust collector issue. Ceres must be respected for the interest shown in the health and welfare of the residents of the mining town/Region 10 and more importantly bringing his profession/experience to bear on BOSAI’s expansion/development, dust and environmental effects. It is always refreshing and breathes a sense of hope when we see engineers and other professionals, conscious of their true purpose and putting their acquired knowledge at the service of the people – so good.

While it is true that “development comes at a cost” as was quoted by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, one senses an undertone and uncomfortableness in reading the Minister’s remark. And so Ceres was in order when he reminded the Minister that BOSAI inherited a wide range of environmental liabilities when it acquired the bauxite operations -details of which can be found in a report at the Adam Smith Institute, and which the company has scarcely touched since its acquisition of the operations. Ceres can be opening a can of worms here. He was equally correct in his rebuttal of the puerile and flippant comment/term by BOSAI’s Secretary that “only fine dust” is being emitted. This was not the least amusing and was probably made from a genuine standpoint of ignorance, since the destructive power of “fine dust” lies in its subtleness to consume all residents. But the effects of the dust in decreasing property value and increasing maintenance cost and respiratory illness is so well known, having been said a thousand times to no avail. In a letter some months back addressing this dust hazard, I wrote: “This disgusting agent has long been the ‘Dennis the Menace’ of residents destroying their homes, window curtains, furniture and many other items. Most importantly, it is a health hazard, and from the inception has been part and parcel of a kind of unwritten agreement for employment and economic development…we have come a long way since then…    where industries are compelled to address the question of pollutants, irritants and any suspected toxic matter. They cannot be overlooked any longer, must be treated as a number one priority, ensuring the safety and longevity of man and his environment.” Also in 2008, Linden IMC Chairman Orrin Gordon had demanded the setting up of “appropriate laboratory and medical facilities in Linden to pursue investigations into the impact of dust emission on the community.” Ceres seems to know definitely “where it’s at” on environmental matters and from concerns raised seemed to be pulling the right cords. However, and as expected like others disciplines/professions he used engineering/scientific terminology and even references to highlight and substantiate his case, and which unfortunately are beyond the comprehension of the layman. e.g.

a)    “During beneficiation, additional air toxins include sulphur dioxide, sulphur trioxide, carbon monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Non Methane Volatile Organics and Methane Volatile Organics”

b)    “ILO and WHO guidelines state that the danger from silica particles occurs for diameters less than 5 microns since those particles when inhaled can reach the alveoli and lead to lung impregnated disease”.

“The exposure pathways should at a minimum consider inhalation, dermal contact and ingestion of both dust and food contaminated by deposition of dust.”

Any contaminants discharged to groundwater can, depending on mobility impact groundwater quality resulting in significantly increase cost to provide potable groundwater to residents in our coastal plane, etc.

The technical language is definitely above the head of not only the ordinary people, but also some senior staff who I guess would be at sea as to the depth of destruction/hazard and the sphere of knowledge as outlined by Ceres, but once enlightened, one expects to see a qualitative approach/behaviour that reflects such awareness and not business as usual. Gandhi in listing his seven blunders of the world included “Science without Humanity”.

Of much greater concern was Mr. Ceres’ call on the ministers to address the likelihood of groundwater, during the proposed expansion/development, to ensure that it does not impose unnecessary burden on future generations.

The Government of Guyana with its 30% stake in BOSAI as stated by Ceres, and also with control over the Environmental Protection Agency, must be seen showing keen interest, watching over and protecting the health, safety and concerns of all citizens; their first mandate.

I suggest that whatever technical team the EPA is made up of, should include or incorporate the likes of Charles P. Ceres.

Linden folks eat, sleep and breathe dust, and once more I want to say: When a thorough and in-depth investigation is finally done, I contend that there will be some alarming revelations about the effects of this bauxite dust emission over the decades.

Yours faithfully,
Frank Fyffe

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