EPA bringing hazardous waste under control

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IMPROPER waste management is a significant issue in Guyana that is engaging the attention of the EPA. In fact, 14 percent (17) of new and recurring complaints received between June-July 2019, were related to improper waste management. From time to time, complaints are received related to solid and liquid waste being disposed of in sensitive environments such as creeks and rivers thus compromising the health of those ecosystems and the people who use them. An even greater area of concern is the safe management of hazardous waste.

Hazardous waste means waste or combination of wastes which, because of its quantity, concentration or physical, chemical or infectious characteristics, may pose a substantial hazard to human health and the environment. Such waste may be flammable, oxidising, poisonous, corrosive, infectious, ecotoxic, etc., and may include substances such as metal carbonyls, arsenic, mercury, lead, organic and inorganic cyanides, asbestos (dust and fibres)\Organic phosphorous compounds, organic cyanides, ethers, halogenated organic solvents, etc.

Hazardous Waste Regulations and the Basel Convention
The EPA under the Environmental Protection Act, Chapter 20:05, Laws of Guyana, and the Environmental Protection (Hazardous Waste Management) Regulations 2000, is mandated to oversee the management of hazardous waste. Guyana is also a signatory to the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous
Wastes and their Disposal, and the EPA is the National Focal Point in the country for the Convention.
This means the EPA will be the lead Agency in coordinating national actions in Guyana towards meeting the obligations under the Convention.

Notice of Activity – Getting Authorised
According to the Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, anyone who operates or proposes to operate a facility that generates, transports, treats, stores or disposes of hazardous waste, is required to submit a Notification of Activity and an application to the Agency for an Environmental Authorisation. The Notice of Activity will inform the Agency of the nature of the activities at the facility and will aid in guiding its decision on whether or not Environmental Authorisation is required. Application forms for Environmental Authorisation are available on the Agency’s website and at our Georgetown and Berbice offices.

Here is what should be submitted in the Notice:
* Name, address, email, telephone number and fax number of the applicant;
* Generators of the waste and the site of generation;
* Disposer of the waste and size of disposal;
* Designation and physical description of the waste and its composition and information on the special handling requirements including emergency provisions in case of accidents…;
* Types of packaging envisaged (e.g. bulk, drummed, etc.) for storage, accumulation etc.;
* Estimated quantity weight and volume;
* Process by which waste is generated;
* Information concerning the contract between the transporter, disposer as the case may be; and
* Information relating to insurance.

Offences and Penalties
Notifying the Agency of your plans to generate, store, handle or dispose of hazardous waste is the first step in the right direction.  It is an offence store, treat, transport, dispose of in an open dump, import hazardous waste or cause contamination from such waste, with penalties ranging from $30,000 to $2,000,000 and imprisonment up to five years. Penalties may be doubled in the case of corporate bodies.

Challenges and the way forward
Some of the key challenges have been insufficient data of quantities and streams of hazardous waste generated in Guyana and the provision of suitable disposal sites for hazardous waste. Interim recommendations include the exportation, neutralisation and safe storage of such waste as guided by the Agency until a suitable approved disposal site can be determined.

Currently, the Agency is working towards strengthening compliance assistance and enforcement for the safe handling, storage and disposal of hazardous waste at medical facilities such as hospitals and health centres, pharmacies, mortuaries, funeral homes and parlours. The activities at these facilities may result in the generation, accumulation, storage and disposal of hazardous waste such as bodily fluids, body tissues, non-anatomical waste infected with communicable diseases, sharps and effluents. As such, depending on the nature of the said activities, the facilities may require Environmental Authorisation from the EPA.

Further, a waste management steering committee was formed between the EPA and Ministry of Communities to: address waste-related matters and to assess controlled dumpsites across Guyana to determine suitability for the development of engineered landfill sites; regularise waste collectors and operators in the ten Administrative Regions; and to strengthen collaboration between the two Agencies for environmentally sound waste management throughout the country.

You can share your ideas and questions by sending letters to: “Our Earth, Our Environment”, C/O ECEA Programme, Environmental Protection Agency, Ganges Street, Sophia, GEORGETOWN, or email us at eit.epaguyana@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.