Company stops work on chemical warehouse pending EIA

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By Bibi Khatoon

Nalco Champion Guyana Inc. has stopped construction of its chemical warehouse at the John Fernandes Inland Terminal at 4055 Industrial Site, Ruimveldt, Georgetown pending an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

This was disclosed by Jeremy Fernandes of John Fernandes Ltd. at a meeting which was called Thursday evening at the New Guyana School, a short distance from the proposed facility, to discuss the plan with residents and others.

Just about 20 residents showed up for the meeting.

He said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and other stakeholders visited the site just two weeks ago.

He said some concerns were raised and this caused the company to halt construction activity.

Jeremy Fernandes, Company Secretary of John Fernandes Ltd. [News Room photo]
“They (EPA) raised some concerns surrounding the Environmental Impact Assessment so we decided together that we will cease works until we consult on all of those issues,” he stated.

Fernandes explained that while the company was awaiting approval from the EPA for the storage of chemical, it had begun construction of the actual warehouse since the area had already received approval for that purpose.

Residents have over the past week expressed fears about the project, including possible contamination of surrounding water sources.

The News Room first published a story on July 13, 2019, relating the concerns of dozens of residents of Houston Gardens, Shirley Field Ridley Square, Roxanne Burnham Gardens, Guyhoc Park and Banks Park.

At the meeting Thursday evening, their concerns were answered by Country Readiness Manager John Waldvogel and Supply Chain Manager Eric Scott.

Residents who attended the meeting seated on the right [News Room photo]
As it relates to transport and safety of the movement of chemicals, it was stated that an escort may be provided by the Guyana Police Force for the 53ft trailers; these could make about 6-8 trips per week.

It was pointed out that that figure represents only 1% of the number of containers moving in and out of the John Fernandes Terminal per day.

Additionally, drivers will be specially trained. It was further stated that a risk analysis of the routes was also conducted.

“We want to travel at the safest way,” Scott told those gathered.

One resident, Gwen Patterson, asked about possible damages to the roadways which can be incurred from the vehicles. In response, Jeremy Fernandes noted that John Fernandes has developed and maintained the roadways which it uses and avoids using the main roadways as much as possible.

Seven Guyanese employed by the company (Standing)
[News Room photo]
As it relates to a possible fire –a question raised by a representative of the New Guyana School, Scott admitted that all of the chemicals to be stored at the bond will be flammable but he also explained that local staff are being trained to be first responders in such instances.

The Manager further explained that there are no “bushes” surrounding the facility which will aid in the spreading of a fire.

However, in an earlier presentation, Waldvogel pointed to the company’s policy of having zero accidents and incidents.

According to the Project summary, some of the chemicals are Methanol, Xylene, Asphaltene Inhibitor, Corrosion Inhibitor and Emulsion Breaker which will have to be transferred from the warehouse to the supply boat.

The company’s Supply Chain Manager pointed out that no gas will be stored at the facility, only liquid.

He likened the chemicals to substances used by most Guyanese. He compared methanol to rubbing alcohol, xylene to paint thinner, asphaltene to gasoline and emulsion breaker to diesel.

John Waldvogel

Scott noted that the company is following all of the procedures required including those stipulated by the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) to ensure that it reaches the guidelines for importation of the chemicals.

He outlined several safety measures which will be implemented at the facility including ensuring the durability of the tanks to be used and the measures which will ensure safety in filtration and other processes to be conducted at the warehouse.

“These tanks don’t leak,” he noted.

Eric Scott

According to Scott, the warehouse will not have massive storage tanks, buried chemical tanks, vapour clouds or steam, stack or vent flume or chemical reactions.

He told residents that “this is a basic warehouse facility” where there will be storage of products and equipment, repacking of chemicals into tanks, filtering chemicals, an office space and quality control for filtering operation.

The company has employed seven Guyanese thus far and hopes to increase this number in the future.

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