EPA equipped to detect radiation levels as oil sector expands

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Since the emergence of the petroleum sector, Guyana has seen an influx of chemical waste facilities being established to store items from offshore operations, and oftentimes, some of those materials are radioactive.

And to ensure that Guyana is not exposed to harmful radiation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has equipped itself with a new piece of technology enabling officers to test radiation levels in the air.

Costing some G$2 million, the ‘Pack Eye Radiation Detection Backpack’, locates and detects gamma-emitting radioactive sources in large areas very rapidly.

And according to Gwenetta Fordyce, an Environmental Officer in the EPA’s Technical Services Department, the Agency has already conducted checks at four sites.

“And these are storage facilities [that have material] before it goes offshore, to ensure that the levels are acceptable, that the occupational and environmental exposure is acceptable,” she added.

Environmental Officer in the EPA’s Technical Services Department, Gwenetta Fordyce with the Pack Eye Radiation Detection Backpack (Photo: News Room/ February 22, 2022) 

With the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA is yet to conduct inspections on the floating production storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) offshore Guyana but by the end of the year, this would be in place, Fordyce explained.

For onshore facilities, the EPA has stern measures in place to ensure the safety of the environment as it relates to chemical waste facilities. Operators who wish to import the chemicals are required to have permission from the Agency and Customs.

“They are then issued with environmental authorisation or environmental permit and that outlines the conditions that these companies must adhere to,” she continued.

The Pack Eye Radiation Detection Backpack (Photo: News Room/ February 22, 2022) 

Added to that, they must present the EPA with a “Material Safety Agreement” mandating that the chemicals are returned to the manufacturer when expired since Guyana does not have the capacity to treat radioactive waste.

And further, the EPA also receives quarterly reports that entail the volume of radioactive chemicals “so we would have an idea of how and when it will be depleted and when it needs to leave the shores of Guyana.”

But thus far, with companies already existing in the country, the Environmental Officer noted that there have been “no issues” with compliance to the EPA’s guidelines.

“These companies generally are compliant because before leaving these international countries, they have to comply with their regulations and standards before even coming into our country.

“The standards existing here are adopted from the International Atomic Energy Agency so all these are rigorous approaches that these companies have to comply with before even before we even consider granting them environmental authorisations,” Fordyce said.

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