WASHINGTON D.C./PHILIPSBURG–A baseline screening of smoke from subsurface fires at the main dump and the “Irma” dump showed that several air pollutants emitted from subsurface fires exceeded international occupational exposure limits within the perimeter of the dumpsite,” according to a World Bank assessment.
New health and safety protection measures are recommended for people active on the dumpsites. The assessment was conducted on the dumpsites only, not in neighbourhoods surrounding the dumpsites.
As an immediate measure, government will restrict access to the dumpsites to authorized personnel and workers only and will equip them with appropriate protective gear.
In addition, to assess the risk to neighbouring communities, air quality measurements will be carried out by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands in January 2019. Further air quality monitoring will follow under the Emergency Debris Management Project before, during and after the planned fire suppression operations.
These results of the assessment were expected as the majority of samples which exceeded limits were collected in the smoke where the concentration of emissions is high, said the World Bank.
The purpose of this baseline assessment was to identify the chemical composition of the smoke in preparation for fire suppression operations. These are to be undertaken through the Emergency Debris Management Project financed by the Dutch-financed, World Bank administrated St Maarten Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund.
Based on the results of the screening, appropriate occupational health and safety measures have been identified to ensure the protection of workers at the site. Government will put these in place, with the support of the World Bank.
The Grant Agreement for the Emergency Debris Management Project, which, among other activities aims to extinguish the subsurface fires at the dumpsite while controlling the impacts on the environment and the population, is scheduled to be signed next week and subsequently rolled out. Equipment is currently being procured to help improve landfill management and better control the fires.