Darroux said the process of disposal is safe

Environment Minister, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, is assuring Dominicans that a method being used for the disposal of the dangerous chemical, ammonia, at the Kubuli factory in Fond Baron is safe.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, he said the process is internationally accepted.

“So it is an internationally accepted process of what they called degradation, where this ammonia is going to be passed through water and neutralized,” he stated.

According to Darroux, the factory suffered damages during the passage of Hurricane Maria and a couple of weeks after the storm the government was informed, in questionable ways according to him, of the presence of ammonia there.

“We were assured that the ammonia at the factory would be safe in contained tanks…” he stated. “Of course the DBBL (Dominica Brewery and Beverages Ltd) would have assured us that they would be doing periodical checks, monitoring the presence of ammonia in the area.”

He stated that up to about a week ago, there was no measured ammonia in the area.

“But about a week ago, they noticed that there was this ammonia, this small leakage, which unfortunately has been increasing on a daily basis,” Darroux noted.

To make matters worse, according to Darroux, the site of the leak hasn’t been physically or visibly identified.

“So here we were caught between the devil and the dark blue sea and something had to be done…” he noted. “So the DBBL would have engaged a highly specialized team from mainland USA and Puerto Rico to come up with a plan to get rid of this ammonia because this ammonia cannot remain there.”

He further stated that the government was assured that the leak was not coming from the contained system and it could have been residue in the piping system because the ammonia was being used as a refrigerant for the factory’s cooling system.

“So what do they have to do, we had to get rid of the ammonia that is contained within that vat or whatever container it is in,” Dr. Darroux noted. “So this is what is happening at Kubuli as we speak.”

He said a number of stakeholders are involved including the police, the fire service, the health ministry, among others.

Darroux said all is in place to ensure that the process of neutralizing and disposing of the ammonia is in place.

“But just to reassure Dominicans that all is in place to ensure the safety of the citizens and as I said before the process which is being engaged is being done by a highly specialized team and is an internationally approved process which is the degradation of ammonia,” he noted.

He said he hopes all goes well.

“So we are hoping and of course praying that all goes well,” he remarked. “Of course there are certain risks involved, especially when you going to tap into the vat containing the ammonia, when you might have a little escape of ammonia but this will be monitored constantly and of course the public will be notified of any mishap.”

At a press conference on Thursday night, Senior Environmental Health Officer, Sylvester St. Ville said after the ammonia has been neutralized, it will be discharged into the river incrementally, “little bits at a time.”

People living close to the factory are expected to vacate the area, motorists traveling in the area are asked to follow instructions by the police and people are asked not to use the river in Loubiere during the course of Friday.