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Chemical scare in Couva

By RICHARDSON DHALAI Thursday, January 9 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Going home: A man takes his two sons home after the California Government School was forced to close early because of a chemical scare in Couva yester...
Going home: A man takes his two sons home after the California Government School was forced to close early because of a chemical scare in Couva yester...

AS THE country continues to grapple with the major oil spill which affected a number of sea side communities along Trinidad’s south west peninsula, scores of workers and school children in close proximity to the Point Lisas Industrial Estate (Plipdeco) had to be evacuated yesterday after a pungent odour from a suspected chemical leak was detected yesterday.

However, intense investigations by HSE personnel from both the National Gas Company (NGC) and Plipdeco on gas pipelines in and around the estate revealed the source of the odour was not from any of the plants at the Estate but may have been associated with spraying of an insecticide at a housing settlement in Couva.

A NGC source told Newsday that the insecticide chemical Malathion, used to control mosquitoes was mixed with another chemical, phosphorous, and sprayed in and around a housing settlement in Sevilla, Couva yesterday.

Malathion is a manmade organo-phosphate insecticide commonly used to control mosquitoes and a variety of insects which attack fruits, vegetables, landscaping plants and shrubs. Short-term exposure to high levels of malathion can affect the nervous system causing a variety of symptoms including headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, cramps, diarrhea, excessive sweating, blurred vision and increased heart rate.

According to reports, at approximately 8 am, a pungent odour which some persons described as a smell akin to rotting meat was detected in the vicinity of the Industrial Estate, Balmain Village and Rivulet Road.

The odour resulted in a work stoppage at the construction site of the new Phoenix Gas Processors headquarters in Rivulet Road, Couva after workers complained of nausea, stomach pain and difficulty breathing. According to a worker, they were subsequently sent home for the day after the odour reportedly became overwhelming.

Workers at the National Energy Corporation offices also left work for the day. The odour also resulted in the closure of a number of stores and outlets including the RBC branch at the popular Atlantic Plaza, Point Lisas. A large sign, affixed to the door of the RBC branch advised customers of the bank’s closure due to a, “gas leak.”

The same situation occurred at the California Government primary school located directly opposite the Industrial Estate as parents were called by the school’s teaching staff to collect their students.

In a media statement, Plipdeco noted that subsequent investigations into the pungent odour revealed, “no gas or chemical leaks associated with companies on the Industrial Estate were detected at this point in time. It appears the source of the problem may have been chemical spraying conducted at a site in the vicinity of Sevilla.”

“We have since ascertained that all spraying exercises have ceased and at present the scent has dissipated,” Plipdeco stated, adding a preliminary report had been made to the EMA.

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