Report: March fire at Riverton dump most detrimental in history

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor - features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

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THE two-week-long fire at the Riverton dumpsite in March was the "most detrimental" in the history of fires at the waste disposal facility, according to the air quality report the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) released yesterday.


The ranking is in terms of impact on air quality and zone of influence.


The Fire Brigade previously said the blaze was the dump's biggest -- covering 90 acres of the site -- and the most expensive to control, costing taxpayers in excess of $200 million.


NEPA's stationary air quality monitoring equipment recorded data from March 11- 30 "in order to gauge and account for the lingering effects of the fire which continued to smolder up to 29 March 2015".


In the 12-point summary of the findings issued yesterday, NEPA reiterated comments made on Monday by Steven Panton, acting head of its air quality management branch, in a Jamaica Observer interview, that "unusually high" levels of poisonous substances, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected during the period under review, and that the radius of "very high risk" exposure was five kilometres, while the "high risk" exposure was six kilometres.


"The fire at the Riverton Solid Waste Disposal Facility impacted negatively on the ambient air quality and on human health and well-being in Kingston and St Andrew and parts of St Catherine, including Portmore, over the period under review," the report said.


"Significantly high 24-hour particulate matter (PM10) readings above the WHO 24-hour average standard (57g/m3 - 192g/m3) were recorded at all air monitoring locations for the first eight days of the fire, including the Waterford Fire Station, Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd on Spanish Town Road, Marcus Garvey Drive, and as far as College Commons in Mona," it continued.


In addition to those sites, NEPA gathered data from its own building in Cross Roads; Garmex, Marcus Garvey Drive; Petrojam, Marcus Garvey Drive; Carib Cement, Rockfort; Red Stripe brewery, Spanish Town Road; JPS, Rockfort, Kingston; Carib Cement, Harbour View; and 191 Old Hope Road.


It tested for 29 pollutants, which included "priority air pollutants" and "critical air pollutants". It detected 26 VOCs, including benzene, toulene and decane.


"Of the 26 VOCs detected, 16 were above the lower concentration limit of the analysis method. This result was similar to the results obtained in the Riverton Fire of February 2012, and compares to a list of 46 VOCs detected in the Riverton fire of March 2014. The concentration of VOCs varied during the period of monitoring with the highest concentrations being observed generally for benzene," the report said.



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