Members of the public, particularly operators of bodywork shops, mechanic shops, and owners of vehicles and have been urged to follow stipulated guidelines and play a greater role in reducing pollution around their operations and homes.
This call has come from Senior Environmental Technician at the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Shaina Goodridge, who also has responsibility for air and noise pollution in Barbados.
And, she is encouraging operators of bodywork and mechanic shops to obtain a copy of the Best Management Practices For Vehicle Maintenance Facilities in Barbados Guide and seek assistance from the EPD in setting up their operations.
"We receive a large number of complaints about vehicle maintenance facilities, and we are required to go and investigate," she said, explaining that such facilities included bodywork and mechanics shops, areas where air conditioning repairs were done in cars, customisation workshops and valet operations.
Those complaints range from paint odours; dust from sanding; smells from petroleum products such as gas and diesel; water, noise and marine pollution.
Ms. Goodridge also warned that there were a number of physical effects that could occur from being exposed to such operations.
She explained that those effects induced by noise pollution could include headaches, aggravation or the development of hypertension as a result of exposure to the pollutants; sleep disturbance and the aggravation of mental illness.
In addition, she said, air pollutants could also create problems with the skin; cause people to feel nauseous, fatigued, dizzy, develop asthma, aggravate a pre-existing condition of asthma, or other respiratory ailment; and even damage the central nervous system.
"Some pollutants are carcinogenic, so there is [also] the potential for people to develop cancer," the Senior Environmental Technician pointed out.
However, in suggesting ways to improve how such facilities were operated and maintained, Ms. Goodridge suggested that operators start with having the correct design for the facility.
She stressed the only way they could be sure that it was being done correctly would be to obtain planning permission from the Town and Country Planning Development Office and the EPD.
She added that operators should also have a booth for spray painting, have the appropriate pollution control system properly installed, operated and maintained, and have the correct types of exhaust ducts for the extraction of pollutants.
Operators are also being encouraged to consider safer ways of carrying out their operations. "For example, you may do wet sanding as opposed to dry sanding; you could use a proper type of spray painting gun rather than a high pressure, low volume gun; take corrective action in a spill and dispose of material retrieved from the spill; engage in the correct storage and handling of chemicals; wear personal protective equipment to safeguard yourself; and have a good maintenance programme in place," Ms. Goodridge advised.
She also encouraged operators to communicate with their neighbours to let them know what is going on with their operations, the safety measures in place, the work planned, and discuss any concerns they might have.
However, she advised those not directly involved in such operations to be their brother’s keeper. "If you are aware of the guidelines for such operations, let others know. Pass on the information to them and get hold of the Best Management Practices booklet and forward it to the operator or contact the Environment Protection Department and make us aware of the operation, so we can make an assessment and work with the operator to bring them up to standard," she suggested.
Vehicle owners too are being encouraged to avoid doing maintenance at their homes or in residential areas where there are no environmental controls. "Take it [the vehicle] to an authorised dealer or facility. Somewhere that has the correct design and controls in place and disposal techniques," she said.
Persons who require copies of the Best Management Practices for Vehicle Maintenance Facilities in Barbados may contact the EPD at 310-3600 or visit their website at http://www.epd.gov.bb/.