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LEE ADDRESSES COMMENTS ON DUMP FIRE TESTING RESULTS

In the Council of Ministers press briefing of Wednesday November 7th, Minister of Public Health, Emil Lee, addressed the recent comments made in the media pertaining to the emissions from the dump. Lee made clear that there is no doubt that the emissions from the dump are unhealthy for the population and certainly does not want to downplay the possible health risks that may be the result of the emissions from the dump. A copy of the DRAFT report was requested by the Minister this week, to which he stated: “What they are recommending is that as part of the program we set up sampling for distances around the dump, so that we understand what the impacts are. And this is what we are looking at in the execution of the project.”

“Although the Government of St Maarten is not the owner of the report or its content, we certainly wouldn’t have an issue if World Bank shared the report. I certainly believe that Government needs to be transparent. It is important to remember that the report reflects direct testing of emissions from smoking sources and deliberately gives a worst case scenario. Therefore, the report findings need to be framed in proper context.” – Emil Lee, Minister of Public Health.  

The report states: “These air quality test results and conclusions contained herein DO NOT contain reference to or discussion of potential for offsite migration of chemical constituents of concern (COCs), or the potential for impacting surrounding populations. Perimeter air quality monitoring of the landfill and potential impacts to the surrounding areas from emissions is recommended to be performed as part of the fire suppression activities to be protective of human health and the environment. This sampling and analysis event was performed to assess the “worse case” exposure scenarios for workers (without excavating waste) that will be performing fire suppression and working within active combustion and smoke impacted areas. These data should not be used for other purposes, in particular speculation as to what offsite concerns may or may not be occurring.”

“I was there with the consultants EE&G, together with the Minister of VROMI when they were setting up the project and when they were executing the study. And also received a very good explanation from them on what to expect from the study.” – Emil Lee, Minister of Public Health.  

The disclaimer of the report makes clear that one cannot take the results of the study and relate it to what the impact may be to a surrounding or distant area, based on how the wind would carry the particles. Lee further elaborated based on the draft report of the study results: “The results of the upwind control samples showed significantly lower concentrations of the COCs tested for when compared to the area test samples.” These are the results from the testing of the smoke, where less concentrations are found. From the report: “These air quality test results and conclusions contained herein DO NOT contain reference to or discussion of potential for offsite migration of COCs, (chemical of concern) or the potential for impacting surrounding populations.”

The Ministry of VSA will be issuing an update in relation to the current public health concerns, precautionary measures and short-term programs.