Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Ash will continue to fly - Solutions too costly for Golden Grove Sugar Factory

Published:Sunday | February 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
Beatrice Dunn throws a handful of the fly ash out a window in her house in Duckenfield, St Thomas.
Dalton Brown, factory manager at the Golden Grove Sugar Factory.
Nowell McLean, production manager at the Golden Grove Sugar Factory.

Residents of Duckenfield and surrounding communities in St Thomas will have to live with the nuisance of soot (fly ash) from the Golden Grove Sugar Factory blanketing the area for some time as the company says it is unable to implement some of the recommended fixes for the problem.

Manager of the Seprod-owned sugar factory, Dalton Brown, says they are doing what they can to deal with the problem, but suggestions for a permanent fix from past president of the Jamaica Institution of Engineers, Howard Chin, cannot be taken on at this time.

"Because we can't wash cane effectively we have ashes building up in the broiler, and we usually run for a period that would allow the build-up to be so much that it would carry over," said Brown, as he admitted the problem faced by the residents.

"Since the start of this year, I have instituted that we clean more regularly, and also adjusting the fans to reduce the broiler exhaust airspeed," added Brown.

Chin, in responding to the problem highlighted by The Sunday Gleaner last week, noted that what the residents have labelled soot is really fly ash.

According to Chin, it requires space and will for the manufacturing and distribution giant Seprod to provide relief for the residents.

"What they can do is slow down the airspeed, so instead of having a small duct that is carrying all the exhaust, you make it much wider and make it settle and it will just drop out the particles. It is not that expensive to do, but you just have to have the space to do it in," said Chin.

He also proposed that the factory should install a scrubber, which would wet the fly ash and make it heavier and fall to the ground rather than to take off in the wind.

"Or they can run the exhaust gas through a cyclone extractor, which essentially spins out the bits of fly ash. This is another space-occupying device," Chin explained.

"Another thing is to put the fly ash through a filter, but the filter is going to cause back pressure on the boiler. The cyclone is probably going to do the same thing, so they would need something to increase the airspeed," added Chin.




But Brown said the fix using a cyclone extractor is not being done because of space and cost.

"The cyclone suggestion is going to take some amount of construction to get done, and also in terms of where to fit it with the confinement of space that we have, and would also take some capital," argued Brown.

The argument about a lack of space is not a surprise to Chin, who told our news team that this could be an issue.

"If there is the will and space something can be done. Although it should have been dealt with at the beginning, but they built the factory without consideration for these things and probably didn't leave much space for it.

"The situation is just like Bernard Lodge (Sugar Factory) years ago, except that Bernard Lodge was not close to any habitation," said Chin.

Production manager at the Golden Grove Sugar Factory, Nowell McLean, was quick to agree with Chin in regard to the residential communities close to the factory.

According to McLean, with the factory having been at its current location since 1924, no housing development should have been allowed in such proximity.

"The Government has to shoulder a lot of blame for this because in this community some of the housing developments that have been put up very close to the factory should not have been put up," said McLean.

"No licence at all should have been granted for housing developments to be done," added McLean.

Residents in Duckenfield and surrounding communities are complaining about the inconvenience caused by the partially burnt bits of bagasse which blow into their homes from the factory's chimney.

The National Environment and Planning Agency has said Seprod does not have permission to use bagasse in its furnace at the sugar factory, but this is little comfort for the residents who have to live with the black waste which covers their communities at times.