Workmen load trucks with cooking gas tanks at the NP distribution centre in Sea Lots, Port of Spain on Wednesday. Photo by Jeff Mayers
Operations at the National Petroleum (NP) distribution centre at Sea Lots, Port of Spain resumed on Wednesday morning after a brief disruption caused by toxic fumes from a fire at the Beetham landfill.
Hours after the restart of NP’s distribution of cooking gas, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), on Wednesday afternoon, announced that the air quality level around the Beetham landfill has significantly improved in the preceding 24 hours.
The fire has since been contained.
The fire started on the night of April 6 and continued throughout Friday. On Tuesday drivers waiting at the distribution centre reported that the gates to the NP centre have been locked since last week Thursday.
Newsday was told NP staff struggled to operate because of the hazardous fumes emanating from the landfill and had to be sent home.
On Wednesday, drivers told Newsday they were relieved that NP resumed its operations.
One told Newsday, “Things are moving faster, but in a way it’s still slow. It’s still better than waiting a whole week before we could get the tanks refilled.”
However, another driver said he is disappointed by the slow restart, considering the bottleneck build-up from the past week.
“I not seeing any difference. I’m here since 9 am. I only have two tanks and still I can’t get them refilled yet.
“I can’t see how the smoke from Beetham affect the workers so bad that they had to close. Look how long that Beetham landfill burning stuff. They acting like this now happening. It’s only now they saying it affecting them? I can’t see the sense in this.”
There was a noticeable reduction in the long line of trucks outside the entrance of the distribution centre waiting to have their cooking gas cylinders refilled.
When Newsday visited on Wednesday morning just before noon, there were approximately ten trucks and a handful of vans waiting in line.
NP workers were seen unloading empty tanks and reloading trucks. NP’s acting CEO John Gormandy could not be reached for an update on the situation.
In a media release, the EMA said its ambient air quality monitoring station at Beetham shows the quality moved from hazardous levels to unhealthy for sensitive groups.
“We note that this is an improvement over yesterday’s reading which reached hazardous levels. The high readings recorded were primarily due to the smoke and particulate matter associated with the fire at the Beetham landfill which has been contained.”
Its monitoring station in Tobago is also reflecting levels deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups. This is because of the moderate to high concentration of Saharan dust in the atmosphere.
“These readings mean that individuals in sensitive categories, such as persons with heart or lung disease, older adults, children, and people with respiratory ailments and allergies, should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion and minimise outdoor activity. We urge all to take the necessary precautions.”