Residents object to chemical plant in Houston

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…say construction started despite EPA’s pending approval

Residents in Houston, Greater Georgetown on Saturday came together to urge that the authorities step in and prevent the construction of a chemical facility in a residential area that also features schools.

The chemical facility in question is being constructed by Nalco Champion on John Fernandes property. Residents are contending that they were not consulted before the decision was made to set up the facility. Moreover, the residents claim that despite reaching out to the Environmental protection Agency, they have been slow to act.

“We are aware that Nalco has an interest in putting up a chemical facility at the John Fernandes inland terminal. We have a number of issues with respect to having a chemical facility in an area where you have residents. And that is what we’re trying to bring to the floor today.”

Businessman Kent Phillips, with John Fernandes facilities in the background

“There are a number of chemicals that will be housed at that facility. You have Xylene, emulsion breaker, asphalt inhibitors among others. We don’t know the severity of these chemicals. Furthermore, they said they will have a lab there.

Williams questioned what could be the purpose of a lab at the location and whether the United States (US) based company planned to start mixing chemicals. In addition, Williams claimed that Nalco does not have a comprehensive emergency plan. As a consequence, she said, the community at large is in danger.

Businessman Kent Phillips, another Houston resident, noted that prior to John Fernandes buying the land, it was supposed to be for residential purposes. He noted that this is what he and other residents were told before they purchased their own properties.

“On my transport, it stated that this is going to be an upscale housing development in Houston gardens. And what you see would have just been houses. I bought in 2010. Before I started building, I saw containers going up. We were told that the land was bought by John Fernandes for houses for their staff.”

The John Fernandes Inland Terminal where Nalco plans to build the chemical plant

“After a few years, we were told that they would have hundreds of meters free and hundreds of meters of trees as a buff. That container terminal was not supposed to be there in the first place. So before, everything started with the terminal and now it starts with the chemical plant they’re building.”

The residents emphasized that not only is the plant hazardous to them, but can have a ripple effect on the whole city. Besides the danger to residents, Private Sector Commission (PSC) Executive and resident, Ramesh Dookhoo, noted the danger a chemical spill could pose to other businesses.

“They have five wells in the vicinity of D’Agauir Park and Thirst Park, the whole company depends on water for its business, this matter will be reported to our overseas franchise holders and experts are on their way to Guyana to decide how we will handle this matter,” he said.

The EPA had previously put an ad in the print media informing the public of Nalco’s application for approval to construct the chemical storage facility. The facility, located at John Fernandes inland terminal in Industrial site, Ruimveldt, would service Exxon Mobil’s Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel during oil production.

But though the application for approval is pending, one resident pointed out that construction works have already begun and materials were being assembled at the site. Efforts to contact officials from the EPA, including Director Dr. Vincent Adams, were futile.