Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) has lodged an official complaint with the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) against a housing development at Ross Lands, St. James for an alleged breach of its Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC).
The action was filed on behalf of residents of Ross Lands, St James who say construction of the 96-unit housing development project called ‘THE VIEW at Fort George’ is affecting the environment and their health. The complaint alleges that several residents have experienced “symptoms of respiratory and skin irritation as a result of the airborne sediment transmission.” FFOS Corporate Secretary Gary Aboud is a resident of Lower Fort George.
The complaint which was filed on June 10, 2020, alleges that Guardian Life of the Caribbean Limited – as the entity granted EMA clearance via the CEC – was in breach of two clauses of the CEC (Certificate of Environmental Clearance).
A CEC is a permit issued by the EMA giving approval for certain types of projects and activities. It also lists conditions that must be met in order to minimise negative environmental impact on communities. The CEC for this development in Upper Bournes Road, Ross Lands, St James was granted to Guardian Life on November 27, 2019 for the specific purpose of “the clearing, cutting, grading, filling and excavation of 4.71 hectares of land and the establishment of a housing community with recreational facilities.”
In an interview with Cari-Bois Environmental News Network, Ross Lands stalwart, Hilary Ann Browne, 76, said residents’ difficulties began “around April”, just two months after they noticed construction activity picking up pace. Clouds of dust which she said could be seen from Fort George were affecting residents’ quality of life. “You can dust the furniture ten times for the day and you have the same amount of heavy, heavy dust that you can sweep off from the dining table,” lamented Browne.
Contacted for a response to FFOS’ complaint, Ronald Ammon, architect at Home Solutions Trinidad and Tobago – which is overseeing the construction and relevant approvals for ‘THE VIEW at Fort George’ – acknowledged “the occurrence of dust” which he attributed to “the construction of retaining walls along the eastern and western boundaries at the lower portion of the site, to safely contain the earth.”
The construction of retaining walls was a condition set by the EMA in granting the CEC in order to minimise migration of sediment off-site. In its complaint, FFOS said that while the developer had placed sediment fences, the location of the sloped land “renders them ineffective.”
Asked what additional measures were being taken to address concerns about (airborne) sediment transmission, Ammon responded that they had increased the frequency of water trucks on location to complement the silt fencing around the perimeter of the site – a technique which is sometimes used to keep down the dust. Ammon also claimed the developer had offered to assist affected residents with the clean-up of their premises on a regular basis.
In addition to concerns about dust, the complaint filed by FFOS alleges a breach of section 3.4 of the CEC for the Fort George housing development which outlined that “all approach roads are kept clear of debris, mud, gravel, sediments or other materials generated from construction activities, at all points of site ingress and egress for vehicles.” FFOS claimed to have photographic and video evidence showing the roadway covered in rubble – which it further alleged, “indicates a clear breach of the CEC.”
In response to this allegation, Ammon claimed that even before work began the roadway was in a “severe state of disrepair” and that a photographic survey of the area was conducted at that point for submission to the Diego Martin Regional Corporation.
FFOS Programme Co-ordinator Lisa Premchand said the NGO is hoping that the EMA will respond to its complaint by issuing a notice of violation against the developer. However, she added that if the situation does not improve within a month, FFOS will send notice of direct private party action to the EMA.
Asked why FFOS has chosen to take on this case on behalf of the residents, Premchand said that one of the NGO’s core objectives was to “represent communities who are without a voice, under-represented or don’t have the necessary resources and capacity to represent themselves.” She added “We follow planning projects to ensure they are aligned with the principle of sustainable development and to ensure that communities are part of the decision-making process.”