EPA visits Zeelugt over asphalt plant

-residents wants action

Determined to have an asphalt plant relocated, residents of Block 1 Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo were successful in getting officials from the Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA) and the plant to visit them on Tuesday.

The plant, located at Boerasirie, is in line with the Zeelugt scheme on the opposite side and whenever it is operating residents say, the smell from the fumes is very high and thick black dust would be circulating.

The residents told Stabroek News that an official from the plant said he did not know that it was having “such an effect on the people” and did not visit before because “the others assured him” that things were different.

The EPA speaking to residents. The asphalt plant is evident in the background
The EPA speaking to residents. The asphalt plant is evident in the background

One of the EPA officials visited the homes of residents to check the extent of the ‘dust build-up’ and when she “rubbed her hands,” she commented that “something definitely has to be done…”

A resident said that the officer related that the management from the plant was supposed to put up a screen but “the breeze in the place is too much. They would put the screen now so we [residents and the plant] can co-exist…”

According to the resident, the EPA officer told her that when they visited the plant, they noticed heaps of materials such as finely crushed bricks and sand that the breeze would blow all around. The EPA has also taken samples from the plant site for testing.

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).

Residents told Stabroek News that they have developed terrible coughing and sinusitis and can hardly breathe when it is operating.

When asked how long the plant has been affecting them, the residents responded since last year April. But officials from the plant said that they only started operating this year but the residents vehemently disputed this.

Residents engage with EPA officials
Residents engage with EPA officials

One of the residents told the EPA that “they would never say this plant is affecting us because they know that they can face legal action.”

She said though, “We are in it; we are not looking for legal action we are just looking at somebody listening to us and save us before we are infected.”

They questioned why the company would choose to put the plant at that spot knowing that there was a housing scheme nearby.

The residents lamented too that they have nothing against the asphalt plant because they are aware that it was put there for the development of the region; but they insisted that they have a problem with the location.

A woman said her doctor has advised her to “take a blood test to see if toxin is in my blood… We would all have to take that test. These people are lying and that is what is getting me angry… Our lives are involved.”

A woman who lives opposite the plant said she cannot keep her windows open. She said too that one day she put her phone down and when she picked it up there was so much ‘dust’ on it, she could write her name on it.

A pregnant woman said she is afraid for the health of her unborn child while her two-year-old daughter has already developed a heavy cold. The smoke emissions also cause their lips and eyes to burn.

An elderly woman said she and her husband are unable to sit on their veranda to enjoy some healthy breeze.

Stabroek News has so far been unable to reach anyone from the EPA for a comment.

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