Wed | May 24, 2017

New report reveals most detrimental Riverton fire ever

Published:Tuesday | May 5, 2015 | 5:02 PM
An aerial view of smoke rising from the Riverton disposal site on March 13.

New air quality test results following the recent fire at the Riverton City disposal site in St Andrew have shown that it was the most detrimental ever in its history.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) this afternoon released a report on air quality test results, it had promised to make public from last week. 

The tests were conducted in Canada on samples submitted by the Jamaican Government.

READ FULL REPORT HERE: Ambient air quality amid Riverton fire

According to the report, the cancer-causing chemical, benzene, and related compounds, showed the highest increase in concentration among the 26 volatile organic compounds that were detected. 

This is consistent with result of a preliminary test done locally just over a month ago.

At the time, local health officials said there was no need for grave alarm because the threat from benzene would only come after long-term exposure.

However, NEPA is now warning that "any exposure to benzene is considered a grave risk to public health."

It says this is because "there is no established ambient air quality standard for benzene."

NEPA said the Riverton fire affected the health and well-being of residents in Kingston and St. Andrew and parts of St. Catherine, including Portmore over the March 11-30 review period.

According to the report, over the first seven days of the fire, ambient air quality was categorised as “Very High Risk” according to the Canadian and United States Environment Protection Agency Air Quality Index.

The results also revealed that two days after the fire started on March 13, the high-risk substances remained in the atmosphere for more than the 24-hour standard established by the World Health Organisation and the Jamaica Ambient Air Quality.

NEPA's report has not included the associated health and socio-economic impacts of the fire. 

"It is expected that the Ministry of Health will interpret the findings and predict the impact on human health. Similarly, other stakeholders," read the report.

More than 800 people had to seek medical attention as a result of smoke from the Riverton fire.

The fire started on March 11 and according to NEPA, continued to smoulder up to March 29.

WHAT IS BENZENE?
Benzene is a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemical used mainly as an intermediate to make other chemicals.

WHAT IS BENZENE USED FOR?
It is used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, explosives, and pesticides.