While investigators say yesterday’s massive fire at Kaizen Environmental Services did not result in injury to workers or damage to property, there are concerns about the harmful effects to the environment.
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) is expected to visit the waste-treatment facility in the La Brea Industrial Estate today to determine whether the company’s operations adhere to its Certificate of Environmental Clearance.
Residents from as far as San Fernando and Point Fortin reported seeing thick black smoke from their homes after the fire broke out early yesterday.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea corporate secretary Gary Aboud meanwhile called on the EMA to explain why precautionary measures such as a fire trace, fire barricade or buffer zone have not been maintained in the area surrounding the plant. On his Facebook page yesterday, Aboud said that chemical waste facilities deal with and store dangerous carcinogens, volatile and toxic substances.
“For years FFOS has complained that all waste facilities are improperly and loosely managed. Today’s (yesterday’s) fire has released toxic gases and chemicals which will enter our Gulf of Paria marine food basket,” Aboud said.
Contacted yesterday, EMA managing director Hayden Romano said the authority was not the only regulatory agency and works within its remit. He said he had heard about the claims Aboud made yesterday.
“As part of the CEC that would have been granted to Kaizen, we would have visited the site in the past. We would have been in discussions with Kaizen and we will continue our investigation tomorrow (today) once the fire officers say the site is safe to enter,” Romano said.
At the time of the fire, EMA personnel were in the Gulf of Paria collecting samples as part of a project to detect sources of pollutants that stream into the sea. Because of that, they were able to get a view of the fire. However, EMA personnel were not allowed on the site as fire officers told them that breathing equipment was required.
Romano said a preliminary report stated that like last week’s fire at Earth Environmental Ltd in Guapo, yesterday’s was also started by the spread of a bush fire.
Police said a bush fire that was blazing on the estate spread to one of a few ponds containing hydrocarbon waste. With a large supply of accelerant, the fire raged on for hours, leading to fire appliances from the Point Fortin, Siparia and Mon Repos responding to the blaze. After hours of battling with the use of foam, the officers were finally able to extinguish the fire around midday.
The National Energy Corporation (NEC), which manages the estate, has begun an investigation to determine what led to the fire. NEC corporate communications manager Gregory Sealy said the corporation received reports of the fire and contacted the fire service.
Sealy said witnesses reported that they heard an explosion before seeing the fire. He said the fire was brought under control just after midday and there were no reports of damage to property or injury to personnel.
Kaizen’s waste services division provides waste management services to the industrial, petrochemical and energy sector.
- by Kevon Felmine. Photo by Rihsi Ragoonath.