by Bria King
The quality of his product, the productivity of his staff and their health are some of the things a local businessman says are being affected by the exhaust that is being released by an asphalt plant in Layou.
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Gideon Nash, the owner of Nature Care, has been operating his business from Layou for almost two decades.
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The exhaust coming from the asphalt plant in Layou He recently told SEARCHLIGHT that workers and plants at one of his nurseries in the Doctor Hole/Dry Hill area of Layou were being negatively affected by a nearby asphalt plant, which is owned and operated by Dipcon Engineering Services Limited.
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The businessman said the plant releases exhaust made up of dust and oil into the air, which would then fall onto his plants.
“It falls on the plants and that oil sticks on to the plant. In some cases, it burns it and retards the growth of my plants,” Nash explained. “The staff from time to time have to leave the nursery, they can’t stay. Even with masks, when it’s bad, they can’t stay. I had to tell them, once I go there and see, to leave, because it’s that bad.”
He said his nursery has been affected by the dust-oil mixture for at least six months. In this time, Nash told SEARCHLIGHT that staff has called in sick more frequently, with either chest or respiratory problems and in other cases, with skin irritation
On any given day, Nash said he usually has about five employees working at the particular nursery
When SEARCHLIGHT visited this week, only one employee was present
The asphalt plant was not in operation at the time, but the employee said that it had been working earlier in the morning and that he had his mask, ready for when the plant started again later that day
Nash, who is chairman of the board of the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority, expressed the view that the exhaust has the potential to affect two major water sources in the Leeward town
“There’s a drain that empties when the rain comes into the river, into the Layou river,” he said, noting that fish can be affected by the runoff, which in turn can result in residents becoming sick
The businessman also referred to the Layou water catchment
He said “based on the height I see from time to time – I still have to investigate this – based on the height that the dust goes, I have a suspicion that it gets into our water supply”
Nash told SEARCHLIGHT on Thursday afternoon that he did not make a formal complaint to Dipcon. He said however that he had reported the matter to the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment and nothing has been done so far
“So, I am calling on Dipcon to either find a better way of controlling that material that comes off; the exhaust or we’re calling on the citizens of Layou for us to stand up against it, to protect not just the vegetation around, but to protect the fishermen,” he said
Ian Singh, managing director of Dipcon Engineering told SEARCHLIGHT that what is being experienced is a simple fix that is in the process of being dealt with
Singh explained that a dust bag in the plant had burst and required changing, but that there were delays in sourcing the replacement due to the COVID-19 situation
He said the dust bags in an asphalt plant are changed annually or based on the frequency with which the plant is utilised
Singh said dust bags at the Layou plant are usually changed yearly and the plant is usually properly serviced
“There are some mitigating things that we can do…now that I know, I will speak to the plant guys and see if they can do some mitigating things until the new one comes in,” Singh said, noting that no formal complaint had been made to his company
He said however, that the asphalt plant, which played a role in the construction of the entire South Leeward Highway, has been in its current location for the past five years
Dipcon’s managing director added that in this time, they have never received any complaints up until this point, which should indicate that the issue is a new one and a fallout of the pandemic
Singh said the bag has already been ordered from the United Kingdom and Dipcon will move to rectify the issue as soon as it arrives