Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vopak explains reason for 'unbearable' odour

By GENEA NOEL

Freeport News Reporter

genea@nasguard.com

Two weeks after residents in the Pinder's Point area complained of the unbearable odour emanating from Vopak Terminal Bahamas, the company has responded blaming a quantity of light oil for the pungent smell.

Vice President Max Sweet-ing released a press statement to The Freeport News yesterday after reporters received many complaints from residents of the area about the intolerable smell that caused many of them to temporarily vacate the area.

Sweeting said that after an intensive investigation on the odour, it was revealed that its source was the result of a quantity of light oil flushed out of the terminal's waste water system last month by a combination of rain water and water from the hydro-testing of one of their newly built tanks.

He said the oil has since been successfully treated in their Skimmer System and pumped to the recovered oil tankage.

"Vopak Terminal Bahamas is implementing a new environment management plan, which calls for the redesign of our Storm Water and Waste Water Treatment systems to more effectively handle these situations in the future," the statement read.

Despite Vopak's efforts, when The Freeport News contacted residents yesterday, they reported that the odour was still extremely strong, making their living conditions difficult.

Residents first reported the foul disturbance to the media on Sunday August 2, when they claimed that the smell was causing them much discomfort and even made some feel ill.

When the news team visited the area to investigate, the smell was overwhelmingly strong in the area.

One resident, Thelma Dean, who has lived in the area from 1968, said that there have always been different odours coming from the plant, but this time it was almost unbearable.

"This one, it was strong. It smelled like oil and I had to put my hand over my mouth. I felt upset," she reported.

Another resident, who declined to give his name, said the smell was so bad it prevented him from sleeping well for the past few nights.

"It was just terrible. You know how it is when you're wanting fresh air and you can't get it? It's a problem to sleep when it's like that," he said.

He also expressed concerns about potential health hazards that the odour could cause for residents.

"You don't really know whether the scent could kill you or not. You're breathing in stuff that's not really good for your health and ... I feel as if something should be done about it so that we would be able to live in a clean environment."

Other residents also complained that even as the smell continues to cloud the area, no one from Vopak offered to come into the community to explain what was going on or why the scent was so strong.

In the statement, Vopak officials apologized for the disturbance caused to its Pind-er's Point neighbours and as-sured that the facility will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to prevent such unfortunate incidents from reoccurring in the future.

"We wish to assure our neighbours that the safety, health and welfare of those persons working within our facility and in the industrial park, and those living in the surrounding communities are our highest priorities," the statement said.

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