Fears of potential lead poisoning in Trinidad
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday July 06, 2012 – Environmental authorities are conducting investigations into a lead poisoning scare at Santa Rosa West, a residential development populated by thousands of people.
The environmental advocacy group Papa Bois Conservation (PBC) is concerned that an encapsulated lead-contaminated site in the area may be broken by a construction company working in the district and poison may be leaked into the Arima River.
Home Construction Ltd is reportedly building a retention pond in the area, which is also known as “The Crossings”.
PBC head Marc Laurent de Verteuil said he saw a concrete layer at the site broken in several places. The sight of groundwater flowing from the construction crater into the Arima River heightened his concern.
De Verteuil could not estimate the number of people who could possibly be affected, saying it depended on where the Arima River went and how the water was used. He nevertheless noted that one of the country’s largest poultry processors is located downstream from the site, and the river also leads to sources of potable water.
He indicated that the development site at Santa Rosa West was deemed a lead-contaminated site but was remediated under Environmental Management Authority (EMA) guidance.
“This means that the area of concern was encapsulated in concrete and geotextile layers to prevent contamination of groundwater,” he explained.
De Verteuil said that on June 29 PBC had notified the EMA, Environment Minister Ganga Singh and Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan about the matter.
The health minister said lead poisoning was a serious health hazard, affecting the kidneys and bones, especially those of growing children.
Noting it is a matter that needs to be urgently looked into, he said if the Arima River is contaminated, a lot of people would be poisoned.
“Once you touch contaminated water and put your hand in your mouth or drink the water, you can be poisoned,” he added.
The EMA said it had been on the site to investigate the matter and preliminary tests had been carried out.
“The EMA has contracted the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute to conduct more investigations and will update once information becomes available,” it stated in a release.