The National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) is assuring the public that a high level of environmental monitoring and compliance is taking place on the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000.
In an interview with JIS News, Environmental Manager at NROCC, Errol Mortley, explained that before the project even began, an environmental permit was required and that this involves monitoring at various levels.
“Some of the critical elements that require environmental monitoring on the highway are air quality, noise and vibration, and to a smaller extent there are some water-quality issues,” he said.
Mr. Mortley pointed out that those are tiered in terms of significance at various times of the year and that monitoring is a critical issue.
“We use a system that monitors dust 24 hours, so we can see the highs and lows during operation, during construction and when there is no construction, to see where the issues are and the various elements,” he said.
“As a matter of principle, we look at areas near to residences and we try not to exceed the regulated numbers, and since the inception of construction we have not exceeded the numbers, but dust is still an issue,” he added, pointing out that you also have to deal with fugitive dust.
Mr. Mortley said that measures employed at the moment to deal with dust at the first level is to ensure that there is wetting done consistently by the contractor.
This, he said, would include the haul route, at areas where there are residences, to ensure that the dust is maintained at tolerable levels.
The Manager added that testing is also crucial, “because we want to make sure that the air particles which are not visible are monitored, because those are the ones which have the health-related matters.”
To that end, NROCC employs a consultant to do rigorous testing at all intersections where there are residential locations, and these number about eight.
Regarding the issue of ensuring that the noise levels are maintained, Mr. Mortley said that noise monitoring is done in the vicinity of clusters of residential structures to ensure that the nuisance levels are maintained, so that the adjustment can be made to contracted activities, where there are highs and lows.
“One of the elements we found is that when you have blasting, it’s a critical issue for most people, so there is a blasting protocol maintained by the contractor and all blasting activities are regulated by the Mines and Geology Division (MGD) in the Ministry of Transport and Mining,” he said.
Mr. Mortley explained that before a blast takes place, the contractor or the blaster has to apply to the MGD for a licence to blast and that the licence has certain requirements.
The blast has to be designed and the area of impact must be indicated.
The blast zone is 800 metres outwards from the point of the blast and the contractor is required to do a pre-blast survey on all structures within 800 metres of a blast site.
“He examines all those structures to ensure that we capture the condition of the existing structures. When blasting is completed, the contractor is required to go back to those very same structures and do a post-blast survey to examine if there is any change in the structure or any deformations, and then he has a responsibility to make good where damage is done,” Mr. Mortley explained.
These structures include homes, wells or commercial buildings. The Manager also noted that the detonators have to be applied for and that this is a process that involves the police.
The blast site has to be inspected after a period of time to ensure that the blast was safe and met the regulations.
Another safety issue, he pointed out, is that if a blast takes place and there is a complaint relating to safety and otherwise, then the contractor is to address those complaints to ensure that if there are safety issues, they are addressed immediately.
A post-blast survey is also done where all structures are revisited and a similar inspection is done to see if there are variable changes, if existing cracks got wider, if there are new cracks, or shift in foundations.
Mr. Mortley explained that before a blast takes place, the community has to be notified 72 hours prior with a town crier or with flyers.
“At the point when a blast is taking place, we ensure that there are no vulnerable persons close to the blast site, so if there is a senior citizen who has a heart problem they would be taken out of the area for the time of the blast to militate against shock or fright,” he said, adding that just before the blast takes place an alarm is sounded.
The Environmental Manager informed that all blasts that have been done, so far, on the project have been declared safe.