Moving to shut down businesses violating various environmental laws and regulations is a last resort, says Senior Environmental Officer Surjpaul Singh who revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently attending to over 2500 complaints from residents.
Singh, who is also Head of the EPA’s Complaints Unit, made the disclosure during the October edition of “The Environment Matters” on Monday.
He highlighted that the nature of the complaints received by the Agency range from noise, air, solid waste, soil, and water pollution, noting that the majority of the complaints surround the issue of odour nuisances from poultry and livestock businesses, along with dust and fumes from furniture and spray-painting workshops.
“…some major types of complaints that we receive at the Agency are basically odour nuisances from poultry-rearing operations or livestock operations. We also receive a lot regarding dust and fumes from furniture workshops, spray-painting workshops, autobody mechanic shops, and noise also from bars and religious places also”, he explained.
Singh noted that even though complaints come from all across of the country, Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), and Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) are considered to be hotspots.
He further explained that due to the number of complaints and the fact that they derive from scattered areas across the country, a strategic plan is being created in order to tackle these complaints.
“We sort of gather complaints within a certain scope or within a certain area, and then we go out and investigate, because we try to maximise time and resources at the agency as well. So, we try to group our complaints; so if we have complaints from East Coast of Demerara, we look from Georgetown to [probably] Mahaica, Mahaicony – we look at all those complaints within that range, and we go out, do our investigation. Then we come back, do our reporting, then recommendations are made”, Singh further explained.
These recommendations are said to be sent to the polluter, as well as the complainant is notified of the polluter being in recipient of said notification.
Singh stated that, most times, mitigation measures with a timeline attached to them are usually given to polluters in attempts to reduce the amount of nuisance to the environment.
At the end of the timeline stipulated, it was noted, the EPA follows up to inquire as to whether those measures were being adhered to, or put into practice. While it was noted that the Agency’s first approach is to work along with businesses to make sure they are in compliance with the mitigation measures put in place, Singh stated that when these measures are continually ignored, actions would be taken by the agency to remedy such.
“We could have legal actions brought against you – our Acts speaks about a prohibition notice, whereby if you are not in compliance with our regulations or measures that are prescribed to you, the agency can issue a prohibition notice to you or a cessation order, meaning they can cease your operation”, he revealed.
The prohibition notice is said to be one that gives the polluter time to implement the measures put in place by the EPA, and if those measures are not implemented within the timeframe set out, the agency would be able to take the said polluter to court and prosecute that operator. In this case, the polluter may be fined or face imprisonment.
In regards to the cessation notice, the EPA has the power to give an order to have the polluter cease all operation until the act of polluting has been remedied.