Vehicle Maintenance Facilities account for 78 per cent of pollution complaints received by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) over the last five years.
This is according to Director of the EPD, Jeffrey Headley, who is urging operators to implement best management practices at their operations, while at the same time pushing for the establishment of an industrial area to house such operations away from residential communities.
He made these comments today during a seminar dealing with Vehicle Maintenance Facilities at the National Union of Public Workers’ Auditorium in Dalkeith, St. Michael.
Mr. Headley noted that an increase in the number of vehicles from just over 70,000 to 120,000 over recent years, had contributed to the increased demand for body workshops and vehicle maintenance facilities.
"With an average of one vehicle for every two persons on the island, one can understand the need for a large number of vehicle maintenance facilities to maintain these," he said. But, he warned that the manner in which some were operating was becoming "a real serious problem".
Mr. Headley stated that a number of people had heeded the call from Government to become self-employed and started vehicle maintenance facilities.
But, he encouraged those persons operating such facilities to ensure that they had a minimum impact on the environment and were safe and healthy.
Noting that such facilities offered services ranging from body work, service stations, tyre shops and vehicle customisation workshops, the Director warned that the very nature of vehicle maintenance facilities was hazardous.
Concerns over these workshops include odours from emissions, noise, waste water being discharged on properties, improper disposal of waste; the existence of rodent and decreasing property values.
In addition, the department is also concerned about the effect of pollutants emanating from auto body workshops on asthmatics and those suffering from respiratory ailments.
Mr. Headley added that activities such as sanding, and spray painting, could release particles in the air causing respiratory problems or even cancer, if the particles were that toxic.
He emphasised that it was, therefore, imperative for such activities to be conducted in appropriate facilities to minimise potential impact on surrounding areas. "The implementation of best management practices will significantly reduce this number," he explained.
The Director suggested that a long term plan to address these concerns could see such workshops being housed in a specific area. "We just cannot have them all over the place because they carry a serious impact," he stated.
Mr. Headley explained that his idea, which first had to be supported and recommended by Government, was to house the operations together in a unique industrial area, where the health of residents would not be impacted.
"There is a zoning policy and there are certain areas that these operations should not be," he cautioned.
During his address, Mr. Headley also gave operators the assurance that the EPD was only seeking to educate them about how they should operate to protect the environment.
Senior Environmental Technician, Shaina Goodridge, also addressed participants, stressing that EPD was seeking partnership where the overall goal was to increase efficiency and environmental stewardship.