30 Plus Years of Accumulated Chemical Waste Remains Undisposed in Belize

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Updated: February 9, 2017

Unless you are directly involved with environmental agencies, the issue of chemical waste may not peak your interest and so with that you may not know that Belize has tons of chemical waste accumulated on our terrain from way before our country’s independence.  There have been two attempts made in getting this waste shipped out of the country for a final disposal but those proved unsuccessful.  A third attempt is now underway and is being spearheaded by the Department of the Environment with the assistance of a company out of Greece, Polyeco Group.  While the Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria did not speak on the reasons for the two failed attempts, he did express optimism at this third try.

MARTIN ALEGRIA

“I have gone through the first two. I was very hopeful at that time but unfortunately the issue is that its the first time that the Department of the Environment is doing it under our leadership and so we are very confident that now what you are seeing here today, the training, practical training and so on we’d never even reached that stage in the first two instances so that gives me a good indication that it will be disposed of finally. And not only the training and sensitization but now if you go to the transfer station in the Benque area we have transferred all these three sites to one site, in order for us to be able to dispose of it and in disposing of it we need to minimize logistic and maximize effort and so we have stored it in one central site now and that has been done so that is a second step in the final phase of disposal so that is the reason why we feel confident that this time we will get it done.”

As Alegria mentioned there was a training today at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City that saw the participation of about twenty five men and women from various sectors including the Belize Police Department, Pesticides Control Board, Belize Agricultural Health Authority among others.  Leading the training is a consultant from the Greek Company, George Chrysakopoulos who spoke to Love News on the topics for today and tomorrow.

GEORGE CHRYSAKOPOULOS

“The actual project consists of PCB oil of obsolete pesticides and from odious gases. Polyeco has more than 35 years of experience under taking these kinds of projects so this is something that is in our field and that we have a lot of experience in handling hazardous waste and of course about the second phase of our project which is the exportation of the waste to licensed facilities all over Europe for final disposal. They are actually in the first phase of a two day training, today we are taking the theoretical training we are taking some induction training about the handling of hazardous waste and tomorrow we have a practical training which is actually our last side; this project consisted of 16 sides. We have already completed safeguarding operations in 15 of them and tomorrow we are actually going to apply all of the subjects we discussed today in our physical training.”

RENEE TRUJILLO

“Are you going to do that practically with actual chemical waste?”

GEORGE CHRYSAKOPOULOS

“With actual chemical waste everything that we discussed today, the proper use of personal protective equipment, proper packaging materials for these kinds of substances everything will be applied tomorrow in the working site. This is a very bureaucratic procedure we have already communicated with all the intermediate countries that are going to take part in this exportation and actually the port of exports will be located in Guatemala so we will ship the waste through Guatemala.”

RENEE TRUJILLO

“Where is it destined to?”

GEORGE CHRYSAKOPOULOS

“They are going all the way to France we have cooperation with the final disposing facility and all the waste will be incinerated under the UN regulations.”

With the revelation of the decades of chemical waste pending disposal from Belize, we asked Alegria to break it down for us in terms of the items in storage.

MARTIN ALEGRIA

“These were in various places, the DDT was at the Ministry of Health’s compound in Belmopan. The PCBs were at private companies that had generated it but we assisted in repackaging it and making better stored and pesticides it was more through the Pesticides Control Board, they have a storage area of obsoletes, confiscated chemicals that don’t have labels and we don’t know what it is, those are the three major sites that we have had to gather from and the refrigerant gasses.  We at the Department of the Environment had been under the Ozone program we have been collecting obsoletes from the refrigeration technicians so we had all these inventoried and that is how we contracted a company out of Greece who was successful in the bidding in order to do the final disposing for us.”

RENEE TRUJILLO

“Is there a timeline that you all have set, I know you are at training for the disposal is there a timeline set ?”

MARTIN ALEGRIA

“Yes the contract we signed with Polyeco which is the Greek company we gave them six months from the repackaging storage and transportation to execute so we have until June to do it. But again I don’t want to sound too optimistic but the way we are handling it and the speed at which we are responding and the collaboration we are getting from private sector and other government agencies is so good that in my mind I think somewhere in April or May we will have it done.”

Years ago the chemical waste was stored in an area where the Sit and Sip Night Club now sits.  When that property was privately purchased the chemical waste was then moved to the compound of the Old Belize City Hospital on Eve Street and then later to various areas around the country.