The Kubuli Factory at Snug Corner was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria

An operation is to take place on Friday to neutralize and dispose of a dangerous chemical from the Kubuli factory, located at Snug Corner in Fond Baron, Loubiere.

There is presently a leak of the dangerous refrigerant, ammonia at the plant, although the chemical itself has been contained.

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 which flows down into Loubiere.

The operation is expected to begin at 9:00 am and will include a number of stakeholders including a hazmat crew from overseas.

According to plant manager, Albert Porter, the factory was affected by Hurricane Maria and the dangerous chemical refrigerant, ammonia is still at the plant.

“At the moment there is a small leak which has been monitored since after the storm and we want to make sure that ammonia is being dealt with quickly,” he said at a press conference on Thursday evening.

The factory building was affected by both wind and water from the hurricane

Senior Environmental Health Officer Sylvester St. Ville said the operation is to neutralize and dispose of the ammonia.

“If we do not remove the ammonia from the plant there is the possibility that the ammonia could get airborne, the leak could increase, get airborne and we will have a catastrophe,” he said. “We are caught between a rock and a hard place and do something or do nothing and I think the time has come when we need to do something with the ammonia at the plant and safeguard and protect the health of the people and the residence of Loubiere and those traversing the road to Grand Bay, Pichelin, Bagatelle and the other communities.”

He said ammonia is a very corrosive substance which can affect the lungs if inhaled in very high concentrations

“What this means it forms lumps and water pockets in the lungs … if you inhale that product it can be dangerous,” he explained.

St. Ville said the river which travels through Loubiere will be affected during the operation.

“The disposal method will include the disposal of the ammonia solution, after it had been stabilized, into the river at intervals,” he stated. “The environmental health division along with the experts will be monitoring the release of the ammonia solution, which is not the pure ammonia… it will be diluted and neutralized in water. And that water, which is the solution that is going to be disposed of, will be discharged into the river incrementally. It will not be disposed all at one time, but it will be disposed of incrementally, little bits at a time.”

He said there are concerns about aquatic life and standards have been given for the disposal including the PH and the temperature of the solution that is being released into the river.

“The department is really concerned and we really do apologize for what is going to take place and the inconvenience which it is going to cause the people of Loubiere,” he said. “We are concerned about the use of the river so we request that individuals do not use the river tomorrow and we will be passing tomorrow with a PA system to address those who are not listening to this press conference and for those who have questions, they are free to approach us…”

St. Ville said he hopes the operation takes place in a safe way and there are no adverse health conditions.