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A National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) investigation has found that the noxious fume emission, which resulted in the closure of the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 and the Port Henderson Road in St. Catherine on June 28, was petroleum-based.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, made the disclosure at a press briefing at NEPA’s Cross Roads location on July 12 to detail the findings from NEPA.

He said the investigation shows that all samples and specimens collected contained pollutants, which are similar to those originating from petroleum-based products, and could have occurred from Petrojam off-loading activities.

Information submitted by Petrojam confirms the loss of a significant quantity of kerosene during loading operations at the port on the morning of June 28 and the company has started an investigation into the occurrence and has also called in the police.

Laboratory tests, both local and overseas, have confirmed the presence of petrochemicals such as alkane, xylene, dimethylbenzene, napthalenes and volatile organic compounds in the marine water samples; alkane in the sand sample, and the presence of long-chained alkane in air conditioning filters, and in the personal protective equipment worn by the staff at the toll plaza.

In the meantime, the Minister said as a result of the incident, several environmental management and stewardship areas will be tightened.

These include: reviewing the application of the “polluter pays principle” to seek redress for environmental pollution; tightening the incident reporting requirements; reviewing the environmental permitting of bunkering services; developing an inventory of private sector environmental capacities; and bolstering equipment stock; and strengthening the government regulatory agencies to accurately measure environmental parameters and reduce the determination time.

Minister Pickersgill informed that he has instructed the Chief Executive Officer of NEPA, Peter Knight, to bring the matter to the attention of the Chairman and members of the National Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) for the necessary work plan, costing, and an implementation schedule to be determined.

While unable to give a full cost for the investigations, Mr. Knight said the cost for each specialised laboratory sample may be estimated at $600,000, adding that some six to eight tests were conducted.

The emission of the hazardous fumes led to the closure of the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 and Port Henderson Road as well as to the evacuation of business places for several hours.

Some 17 staff members employed to Jamaica Infrastructure Operator Limited, operators of Highway 2000, sought medical attention, while five were treated.

                                                                       

By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter