Residents of Sooknanan Trace in Claxton Bay have called on the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to intervene and stop the operation of a scrap iron dealer in their community.
The residents say the operations have negatively impacted their health and countless complaints over the last six months to the EMA, the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation and Member of Parliament for the area David Lee, have been ignored.
Guardian Media visited the community and spoke to several residents, including retired fisherman, Bhadase Sooknanan.
He lives directly opposite the operation and said the business operates from 7 am to 7 pm daily.
Sooknanan said the noise from the cutting of metal and the stench of burning wires have become too much to bear.
“I have a bedridden wife I can’t even open my window to get fresh air for her, I worked for years and built my home for our comfort and now we are suffering,” Sooknanan said.
He said several residents have complained to the business owner and the employees but were threatened and cursed in response.
“We do all the procedures from the police to EMA, everything, nobody takes any heed. When they cutting the copper and burning the copper wire, and you tell them, they cussing you, they threaten you. Last week they lit a fire to burn wire about 1 o’clock in the day, my house was filling up with smoke and when I came outside to tell them about it, I lost my temper and use a curse word. They threatened to kill me.”
As he sat at his wife’s bedside playing with her hair, Sooknanan could hardly contain his emotions.
“Sometimes I would chance to open the window around 5 in the evening just so she could get some breeze…but right through they will be burning things and the smoke will start to come inside,” he said, wiping away his tears.
His neighbour, Vashti Jaglal said she too has called the police on multiple occasions. She said the business owners would often park their vehicles loaded with scrap iron in the street, blocking her access to her home.
“You can’t tell them anything, they will start to cuss and make threats. Every time the police come, they will just talk to them and leave,” Jaglal said.
She said on one occasion, she made a report after an employee exposed his private part to her and her two young children.
“He walked right up to my fence and exposed himself. When the police came, they told them to knock up some galvanise to make a bathroom and they left.”
Jaglal said her six-year-old son is asthmatic and often has to be taken to her doctor when the businessman lights fires during his operation.
She said during a meeting last week with Member of Parliament for the area David Lee, she expressed her concerns about the effects of the operation on her health and that of her children.
She claimed Lee’s response was callous and uncaring.
“You know what he told me in front of two other neighbours who were present? If I am in so much distress, my husband could stay here and I could go and rent for six months. How could that ever be fair? He also said the EMA can’t help us, the Corporation can’t help us and he can’t help us.”
Another resident, Shanti Ramdath claimed the dealer dumps and burns tyres on her property and repeated requests for him to stop have been ignored.
A man who claimed to be the owner of the business and identified himself as Stephen Lewis denied ever getting any complaints from the residents.
Lewis said Jaglal was always “looking for trouble” and added, “If you go in the station, you will see how much reports she make against us. We don’t interfere with her at all. They never told me they had any problems with my business before.”
One of his employees, who refused to give his name, warned that if the scrap iron dealer was shut down, crime would increase in the area.
When Lewis was asked if he had a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) from the EMA, he said, “Yes.”
When he was asked to present the CEC, Lewis said it was in his cousin’s possession and he had been trying to get in contact with her.
He said he would send a relative to collect it and show it to the news team before they left the area.
However, about half an hour later, the relative returned empty-handed.
“She say she in a meeting, she can’t come out to give us it now,” the relative said.
Another relative said the CEC had expired but Lewis’s cousin was “taking care of it.”
The councillor for the area, Nadia Khan, contacted this reporter shortly after our news team arrived in the area.
Khan said she was “distressed” to learn that the news team was there.
She said she was aware of the complaints by the residents and would discuss those complaints during a meeting with the EMA later in the day.
No CEC, EMA to investigate
Guardian Media sent questions to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) on the status of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance for the operation of a scrap iron dealer in Sooknanan Trace Extension, Claxton Bay.
EMA’s managing director, Hayden Romano said the authority had received no complaints about the operation of a scrap iron yard in the area.
“We have checked our records and we do not have a CEC application for this location. Based on your report, we will investigate.”