Residents of Block 1 Zeelugt South, East Bank Essequibo have developed severe allergic reactions to the fumes from an asphalt plant and are calling for it to be relocated before something drastic happens.
Even though the plant is located at Boerasirie, it is in line with the Zeelugt scheme on the opposite side and whenever it is operating residents said, the smell from the fumes is very high and thick black dust would be circulating.
The state-of-the-art US$850,000 asphalt plant was established earlier this year by two contracting companies; BK International of Guyana and Surrey Paving and Aggregate Company Limited of Jamaica (SPA).
Stabroek News (SN) contacted the project coordinator, Lionel Kandasammy and he said he was not aware that the residents were being affected by fumes from the plant. He also said he was driving at the time and preferred to speak to reporters in person.
Residents told Stabroek News that they have developed terrible coughing and sinusitis and can hardly breathe when it is operating.
What makes it worse, they said, is that the plant does not just operate during the day while most of the residents are away at work, but at nights as well. The smoke emissions also cause their lips and eyes to burn.
They said whenever the plant is working, they have to keep the window closed and this causes a lot of discomfort because the fans are unable to match the heat.
They said too that the smoke gets into their water tanks and they are afraid to use the water for drinking purposes.
Residents also said that their house “can’t keep clean” and they showed this newspaper the black dust that would build up especially on the windows and ceilings.
Some of the residents, when approached, were afraid to offer any comment, except that they did not realize that the fumes were dangerous to their health.
Others insisted that relocating the plant away from the housing area is the only solution to the problem.
They told this newspaper that they learnt that the plant was supposed to be set up farther down in the backdam and are not sure how it ended up at that location. They wrote the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and visited the office about two weeks ago and are still awaiting a response.
They residents said they noticed two people, whom they assumed were from the EPA, entering the area and observing but they left without speaking to anyone.
This newspaper also contacted the Chairman of the Tuschen/Uitvlugt Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), Rangina Mahadeo and she too said she was aware of the problems the residents are facing with the plant.
She also said that she only took over about four months ago and does not know it the NDC had granted permission for the plant to be set up at that location.
The plant, which was sourced from India, has the capacity to produce about 160 tonnes of asphalt per hour.
It also allows the companies to pave two sections of the road simultaneously, with materials being sourced from the Teperu operations of BK International.
The West Coast Demerara Road Project was signed in 2014 by the previous government at a cost of about US$44.3 million. The contract is also being supported by funding through a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank.