While the startup of the Caribbean Gas Chemical Ltd (CGCL) plant in La Brea brings the promise of an economic boost, some residents are complaining of suffering headaches and sleepless nights.For decades, those who live in Sobo Village and along Access Road and Square Deal Road in Vessigny Village had been hearing the sounds of birds and insects in the landscape.
However, when the US$1 billion methanol and dimethyl ether plant started two weeks ago at the Union Industrial Estate, it brought with it a loud mechanical sound that could be heard from several kilometres away.
It is so overbearing that Clive Charles says his wife suffers headaches and his daughter cannot do her school work at home. “My daughter is doing a communication course, and so she has to do her work online. We are getting a lot of noise coming from that plant, so sometimes she has to leave home to go somewhere else to do her work so she can submit it to her lecturer.
There is also a door inside my house that rattles with the vibration coming from the plant. While these things are small now, over time it can have a devastating effect on houses around here,” Charles told Guardian Media yesterday.Damage has already begun at his neighbour Arlene Nathaniel’s home.
Nathaniel showed a mound of broken tiles in the middle of her living room and a crack in the bathroom she claimed occurred two Saturdays ago. She said a group of residents went down to the plant to complain but there was no remedial outcome.“They came up and did their testing. I guess they say we can live in the noise, which I am not going to,” Nathaniel said. If the conditions persist, she said her family would need relocation. Even on the Southern Main Road, Curwin Alexander said the noise bothers his family.
Alexander said when the flare from the plant intensifies, his wife feels an uncomfortable heat and the house vibrates. While the noise does not bother him because of his job, he said his wife has trouble sleeping.
At Access Road, Ann Johnson said while she sleeps heavily, the plant’s operation worries the children in her house.
“There is a lot of noise. Your windows and doors are shaking when the night comes, vibrating. For children, it is very uncomfortable, especially late at night. There is too much noise. It started about two weeks ago then they shut down for a few days. They are back up and running now…and you smell gas, you smell all kind of funniness,” Johnson said.
While the residents are worried about the long terms effects of living close to the plant, CGCL Corporate Affairs Manager Elizabeth Warner-Julien said yesterday that the issues they are facing are only temporary. Warner-Julien explained that the plant was in its testing phase and there would be an ease in the next two weeks. She said CGCL acknowledges the noise level might be uncomfortable for the residents. Following the complaints, she said CGCL sent personnel to carry out investigations.
Warner-Julien added that the residents also reported their issues to the Environmental Management Authority and CGCL is cooperating with that investigation.As for the smell of gas emanating from the plant, Warner-Julien said that was unlikely as the plant is only running tests at this time. She said CGCL was proactive in meeting with the residents before the plant’s startup and was facilitating all their calls since then to ensure constant communication. CGCL plans to host another meeting with the residents in the coming weeks.
MP meets with residents
Last evening, however, residents met with La Brea Member of Parliament Stephen Mc Clashie at Chin Fong Alley in Sobo Village. Speaking afterwards, a resident said there was a good turnout where Mc Clashie took note of their concerns and proposals.
“The MP was gathering notes and so he was asking if anyone had any advice on what should be done, whether they wanted relocation or compensation. Some of the villagers wanted relocation because of the heat and vibration. He made it clear that the plant is not moving and they will have to look for alternative ways to satisfy the villager; either create some buffer zone or build some barricade for the noise.
“He tried to reach the company, but did not get any feedback from them so he said he will raise the matter with the EMA and the government,” the resident said.Mc Clashie asked the residents to give him until Tuesday to return to them with a response.