~ Further research during dump fire advised ~
POND ISLAND–The much-anticipated air quality assessment of the landfill conducted by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment RIVM has been completed and submitted to government. The report did not uncover any harmful substances emanating from the landfill.
The measurements, samples and tests were carried out to determine potential public health risks as a result of the numerous fires that took place on the landfill in 2018.
The report stated that from the measurements and samples taken in the course of the assessment, there were “no or hardly any harmful substances measured.”
This could be because there were no open fires at the landfill during the measurement period. As a result, the RIVM was unable to assess the potential health risks of substances released in the event of an open fire at the landfill.
To get health hazard measurements, these would have to be taken during an open fire, which has not occurred in the last months thanks to efforts of the Ministry of Environment and Infrastructure VROMI.
In the future, in the event of a fire at the landfill, the Fire Department could conduct additional measurements and collect samples for testing if requested. RIVM would then support the Fire Department with specialised equipment and knowledge.
For the just-completed report, the measurements and samples were taken by the RIVM Environmental Incident Service between January 24 and February 6, at a distance of 500 to 2,500 metres from the landfill. RIVM did not perform any measurements at the landfill itself, as the company EE&G which was engaged by the World Bank had already performed measurements at the landfill in 2018.
The measurements by EE&G at the landfill were taken to assess the possible health risks and to identify measures that might need to be taken for the protection of the health of workers on the landfill, as part of the project for the upgrading of the landfill management that is being prepared. The locations selected by RIVM for the measurements were chosen to provide a good insight into the possible exposure of the local population outside of the landfill.
Measurements were taken by RIVM to identify particulate matter (PM10), inorganic gases, volatile organic components (VOC), aldehydes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This is a broad “package” of substances that might be relevant in case of a fire, according to the report’s findings.
From the 206 samples taken by RIVM, a representative selection of 90 samples were analysed in special laboratories.
In some cases in the measurements taken by RIVM, the concentrations of aluminium and possibly of chromium measured were found to exceed the standards that apply if people were to breathe these substances continuously throughout their lives.
For PAHs, some samples exceeded the standards that would apply if these substances were ingested daily during a lifetime. However, the health effects of these exceedances are negligible, and it cannot be concluded with certainty that these exceedances are caused by emissions from the below-surface fires or smouldering on the landfill, as there are also other possible sources in the environment, such as cars and tour buses that can cause these emissions.
It is acknowledged in the report that the odour nuisance that people experience can cause some discomfort such as nausea or headache. However, while the outcome of the RIVM report indicates that the below-surface smouldering of the landfill poses little to no health risk for the population at large, the VROMI Ministry acknowledges that smoke from open fires of any kind can pose health risks.
Although RIVM could not determine the specific health risks in the case of open fires at the landfill, VROMI is continuously taking measures to prevent open landfill fires while working to structurally improve the management of the landfill and, if fires occur, to ensure that they are extinguished as soon as possible.
RIVM, an independent institute of the Netherlands, conducted these measurements on assignment by Environment and Infrastructure Minister Miklos Giterson. The cost was covered by the Dutch government via the Recovery Trust Fund.
The full report prepared by RIVM will be published on the government website
sintmaartengov.org and on the RIVM website www.rivm.nl.