Friday, April 28, 2006

Public comment on EIA

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Location: Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, West Indies
Significance of today: Deadline for public comment on the Alutrint EIA.

Thursday, April 27, 2006



We reject the ALUTRINT EIA process because it has violated the National Environmental Policy. As a result the EIA is deeply flawed.

To date information required by law to assess the cost and benefits of the ALUTRINT smelter has not been forthcoming, even though the period for public comment closes today April 28, 2006. What is more troubling is that even the Joint Select Committee of Parliament has not had access to this information in a timely manner.

The true costs of smelters, of both the ALUTRINT and ALCOA smelters and the dangerous industries planned at the Union Industrial Estate are not being properly counted. We may not even be able to count them. What is at stake for Trinidad and Tobago is not only the giving away of our natural gas, which accounts for 20% of our GDP, and the dangers and damages that will be caused by these industries, but also our precious fresh water aquifers and lost opportunity to develop an agro-industries, eco-tourism, fisheries and a genuinely sustainable country.

The social injustice to the people of Union and the South in general is unacceptable. They are being made to accept this industrialization which comes with highly dangerous risks in a most undemocratic fashion. The old vulgar political machinery of our society is being used to distract people from understanding how they will be affected and from acting as they ought to be free to act in a true democracy.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is betraying its citizens. Its vision is uniformed and perverted and represents a break down of democracy in our society.

Everywhere outside of Trinidad and Tobago, we are being seen as hypocrites. We are going to be the Small Island Developing State, which will break from its brothers and sisters to behave recklessly while we look for sympathy in the world for our vulnerability to sea level rise and hurricanes. We fought down Barbados for flying fish but will give Alcoa our natural gas. Alcoa claims to be a socially responsible company but have begun to interfere in our democracy through their advertisements in our news papers and attempts to influence our minds even before the proper EIA process has begun for their proposed smelter.

We have no problem with the Prime Minister’s vision for a modern industrial society, but that does not have to be built on the most dangerous industries in the world. We have alternatives. Let us invest in the industries that will benefit Trinbagonians in manner that is equitable and does not destroy our other possibilities in our fisheries, tourism, recreation, agro-industry, sustenance from our forests and sense of decency towards each other.

We are not on a path to becoming a modern industrial society. We are going down the road to being a modern industrial colony.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Protesters say environment will suffer from Alcoa smelter

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP)

About 200 people marched through a park in the Trinidad capital to protest Alcoa Inc's proposed US$1.5 billion (euro1.2 billion) aluminum smelter, saying it will harm the environment and the twin-island's neighbours.

The smelter, planned for Cap-de-Ville in southwest Trinidad, would produce 341,000 metric tons (375,888 tons) a year of aluminum.

It is one of at least three major industrial projects proposed in recent years in Trinidad and Tobago.

"If we end up with just an industrialised island where you can't eat the food or breathe the air whe re will we be then?" Petra Bridgemohan, a spokeswoman for an anti-smelter group, said Friday.

Trinidad's government has also partnered with Venezuelan company Sural to build a smaller aluminum smelter plant and aluminum parts factory in the country's south and US-based Westlake Chemical has said it intends to build a petrochemical plant in Trinidad.

The projects still need approval from government regulators.
Manning has said the Alcoa smelter will be environmentally safe and will boost the economy.

Trinidad is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, relying on oil and gas for more than 25 per cent of gross domestic product.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Prayer Vigil Marathon kicks off Friday in Port of Spain

Cedros Peninsula United [CPU] and the Chatham/Cap-de-ville Environmental Protection Group [CCEPG], in conjunction with a host of other civic organizations throughout Trinidad and Tobago, will be initiating a Prayer Vigil Marathon on Friday 21st April 2006.

We shall be assembling at the All Saints Church on Marli Street around the Savannah and opposite the US Embassy from 5pm. to commence an Inter Faith Service at 5.30pm to 6.30 pm. We shall then proceed in a religious candle light procession around the Savannah to White Hall, where we shall hand over the prayer baton – a prayer for national redemption - to community organizations to take back to their respective communities.

It is expected that these communities shall host a prayer vigil in their own community or wherever they deem fit, no later than one week thereafter and then hand over the baton to other communities, the idea being to involve as many communities throughout the land.

National consensus is that a spiritual rebirth throughout the land and at all levels of society is necessary for national redemption.

Now, more than ever, there is need for reflection and introspection … to assess our achievements and failures as a people; to identify where we lost our way and what we collectively have to do as one whole, single and indivisible people … across ethnic, religious, political and economic lines to fulfil the true destiny of this blessed country and people.

We ask you, the people of Trinidad and Tobago to come out and support as well as to actively participate in this initiative.

We also ask that you at least wear a white top and to bring along a candle and candle cup.

Chinese Premier Warns of Environmental Toll

April 20, 2006

BEIJING - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said the dust storms that whipped Beijing and northern China this week were a sharp reminder of the severity of the country's environmental problems.

Wen told an environmental meeting in Beijing that China needed to intensify efforts to rein in pollution and environmental destruction, the Xinhua news agency reported.
"The succession of dust storms is a warning to us," it quoted Wen as saying on Monday. "Ecological destruction and environmental pollution are creating massive economic losses and gravely threatening people's lives and health."

Conservation group WWF warned that China was doing enormous damage to its environment for the sake of economic growth.

"China is still a developing country and the model of economic development is not sustainable," Peng Lei, WWF policy officer in China, told a news conference on Wednesday. "We are sacrificing the environment for the fast growth of the economy."

WWF said Asia-Pacific population of more than 3 billion was using resources at almost double the rate the region was able to support, and called on China to do more to lessen its impact on the environment.

"China is very important, as it is one of the global manufacturing houses of the world," added Dermot O'Gorman, WWF's chief representative in China.

A sand storm struck the Chinese capital on Monday covering homes, streets and cars in brown dust and leaving the skies murky yellow as northern China suffered the worst pollution in years.

The Chinese Central Meteorological Station estimated that the storms had enveloped one eighth of the country over recent days.

Two workers died several days ago in ferocious storms in the western province of Gansu, Xinhua said.

Strong winds overnight cleared away the dust over Beijing which is trying to clean up its environment as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympics.

But so far this year the city has recorded 56 days with blue skies -- 16 fewer than for the same time last year, Xinhua reported.

Wen said that China has met its economic targets for previous years but fallen short of pollution control goals. In 2005 the country's sulphur dioxide emissions were 27 percent higher than 2000 levels, although the government had set a goal of reducing emissions by 10 percent over that time, he said.

Wen ordered local governments to release information about energy use and pollution output every six months.

An editorial in the People's Daily -- the ruling Communist Party's chief newspaper -- on Wednesday said that despite improvement in some cities, the nation's environmental degradation "remains extremely severe."

"Problems built up over a long time have not been resolved, new ones are emerging, and environmental pollution is dramatically increasing," it said. (Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Reuters Television)

The Sulphur Dioxide plumes of Kwinana - The cancer capital of Australia

Australia is renown for having beautiful coastlines and expanses of white sandy beaches, as well as being one of the driest continents in the world. Therefore, It comes as a suprise to find situated on what could be described as a magnificent coastal stretch of Western Australian water, an Industrial region that spans 12 kilometers along the foreshore from north to south and is approximately 2 kilometers wide. This region is located 37 kilometers south of Perth, the Western Australian capital, and takes up 1,180 hectares of land, 80 % of which a small, tiny, little company called Alcoa occupies.
Small may have been a slight exaggeration on my part, after all Alcoa only has 250 operations that spread across a tiny community of 30 nations, with Western Australia being lucky enough to acquire three of these magnifiers of beauty, restorers of nature and revitalizers of natural resources.
Hey, it is a well-known fact that Australia is the lucky country!
Alcoa, also known as the Aluminum Company of America, operates in this Industrial region of Kwinana, 15 km south of Fremantle, Perth and a stone throw from the central business district. The Kwinana refinery began in 1963 and produces 1.9 million tones of aluminum annually. Coupled with the other Western Australian refineries, Australia produces 15% of the worlds Aluminum, which is a fabulous feat considering Alcoa depletes natural resources including Australia's precious water supply, quicker than mother nature can reproduce.
This makes perfect sense when Australia is one of the driest continents on earth.
In a recent study of Perth, the CSIRO or Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization reported:
a 10% decrease in average rainfall and an estimated higher median temperature for the region. They predict this figure will impact upon the ground water of Perth reducing its holding by up to 50%, and they predict that in the future it will become even hotter.
Alcoa plays a significant part in this process because not only do they use natural resources, they also contaminate them, the land surrounding them, the air we breathe, and our glorious ozone layer. It's like a bad Christmas present that you can't return, or sell on eBay.
Without taking into consideration the size of the Alcoa plant in Kwinana — because of its insignificance causing an environmental impact — and the lack of incredibly loud noise associated with production, it is hard to ignore the captivating stream of carbon monoxide emissions, sulphur dioxide (So2), Benzene and volatile organic compounds (VOC) cascading into the air.
What a truly magnificent sight! Plumes of smoke 30-100 meters high. It brings a tear to my eye, and coughing to my lungs. Also, my nose is running.
These plumes then settle and hang around for up to 24 hours, which adds to the entertainment factor because you can now choose, if you wish, to run and frolic in them instead of just viewing their destruction from afar.
Sulphur dioxide only attacks the throat and lungs of the creatures residing nearby, making breathing difficult, and attacks plant vegetation, eventually destroying it. Volatile organic compounds erode our ozone layer and allow harmful UV rays to penetrate the atmosphere. Of course, Alcoa, state:
they are committed to using fewer resources, reducing toxic waste and pollution and becoming more environmentally friendly. They also swear they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, and that they have introduced cleaner production programs.
In making these promises, Alcoa also applied for a new license.
The truly wonderful thing is, Alcoa is expanding. In 2003, they built new bauxite residue and storage ponds that are clay-lined, which of course prevents residue from permeating the earth.
This by-product of aluminum manufacturing takes years to dissipate and these ponds like the Alcoa operation are only small; they cover a tiny area of 44 hectares.
With Kwinana dubbed the Cancer Capital of Western Australia and many bizarre types of Cancer killing off the workers of Alcoa, it makes perfect sense that the Western Australian government is allowing brand new residential areas to be constructed in close proximity.
The real estate offices have been inundated with calls and they have almost sold out of potentially 'fabulous' blocks with a view. You can see that magnificent plume and there may even be a possibility you can play in it.
Of course, research has been conducted to ensure the environment is safe to build on. These tests were carried out by Alcoa themselves, because the Department of Minerals and Energy thought that the Department of Environmental Protection was doing it, and they in turn thought the Department of Health were responsible, so therefore they were unable to decide who should carry out the relevant studies. In addition, they thought Alcoa had done such a fantastic job, they would borrow their study instead.
Talk about shifting the responsibility. Maybe they thought Alcoa resembled a hot potato.
Who could honesty expect anything more from a governing body who find it challenging to issue a license to destroy mother nature and rape the earth. And, we worry about gun licenses!
Alcoa now has a brand-new license to kill, and no, the company is not related to James Bond. They will, however, continue to pollute the air we breathe with toxic emissions, destroy vegetation, create acid rain, drain our natural resources and contaminate the earth.
Our future is so bright I definitely will have to wear shades, and protective clothing and sunscreen and an oxygen mask and…

Energy Corporation chairman a no-show at smelter meeting

Richard Lord
Trinidad Express
April 20, 2006

CHAIRMAN of the Joint Select Committee on Government Ministries, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises Mary King yesterday slammed Chairman of the National Energy Corporation Keith Awong for failing to attend a scheduled meeting at the Red House to discuss the proposed aluminium smelter near Cap-de-Ville, Point Fortin.

At one point King threatened to end the meeting because of the absence of key officials such as Awong, and also because those who were sent were unable to answer critical questions posed by committee members.

Those in attendance were Clement James, manager Public Affairs Alutrint, Vijay Lal, senior project engineer, NEC and Wade Hamilton, vice president, Technical Services, NEC.

They were unable to answer questions on the price gas may be sold to Alcoa, operators of the plant.

They were unable to give answers on the level of emissions from the proposed plant, they were also unable to give details about the transportation of waste from Trinidad and Tobago to the United States or what alternatives were being considered for the safe disposal of the toxic waste.

King said that a fax was received during the meeting indicating that Awong was not attending the meeting.

A disappointed King said: "So members if you have any other questions which we feel can be answered by the panel, let us have them, and if you don't I don't think we really can proceed. We will be writing the Parliament as to the respect or the disrespect that this committee has been given today."

Moments later committee member Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said she did not think it "would make sense to continue this meeting because it is apparent that we are not going to get any answers. It is clear that we have asked for specific people to be present and I feel it is a total disrespect for the committee that these members have decided that they will not attend...and I want to express my dissatisfaction on that issue."

Fellow Opposition Senator Jennifer Jones-Kernahan later said she concurred with Seepersad-Bachan's comments.

The meeting ended minutes later.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Thriving industry in Chatham forest

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Section of one of the plates from the bee hive. Note the white jelly-looking substance in the open cells. That's the Royal Jelly. Imagine how much of it has to be collected from cells in order to cater to public demand. No wonder it's so expensive.

It's not easy to describe the bee-keeping business in the Chatham forest, run by Chunilal and his wife. Partly because I was (i) busy taking photos and didn't soak in all of what he was saying (ii) keeping one ear out for approaching bees as I am allergic to bee stings and (iii) it's one of those things where you have to be there and have the available experiences, rather than reading about it on a blog. Seeing, hearing and tasting is believing.

From the few tiny bee huts amidst the greenery, Chunilal, his wife and their bees conjure up wondrous products such as international prize-winning honey, hair food, Royal Jelly, skin moisturizer, honey soap for dry skin, honey and saffron soap for oily skin ... and more. These products are packaged and sold and, from the stories the enterprising couple told my friend Nicola and I, users of the products (themselves included) have had great things to report. Much to our delight, we were given samples to take home and try.

Whilst in the forest, we also got to eat some interesting 'delicacies':
(i) Bee pollen - the actual pollen collected by the bees and packed into the cells of their comb for honey making. The pollen, which is like large dust grains in varying shades of yellow, tastes like a mix of flowers. For me the dominant flavour was Jasmine (it tasted like a Jasmine flower smells). The bee pollen is supposed to be very energising.
(ii) Royal Jelly - Chunilal dug a little slimy white Royal Jelly 'maggot' out of one of the cells of the hive and we tasted it. It's supposed to be bitter, but it was such a small morsel that we didn't get the full flavour. He explained to us that the Royal Jelly is good for many things, such as reversing the ageing process and dissolving cysts.

By the time we left the forest and made our way to their house to get samples of the different products, we were totally in awe. I now have even more respect for bees and what they can do. Their inate sensitivity is amazing and their work ethic is impressive.

Sitting in the forest of Chatham, unbeknownst to many is this fascinating jewel of an industry, creating world class products that deserve to be promoted. Why on God's green earth would anyone want to destroy this for a smelter?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

NJAC calls for government clarification on smelter

April 12, 2006

The National Joint Action Committee is calling on the government to take positive steps toward a clarification of all matters concerning the proposed establishment of an aluminium smelter in Chatham, south Trinidad.
This follows yesterday's (Tuesday's) visit from a delegation from the Chatham/Cap de Ville environmental protection group.
The group outlined several issues of concern to them since plans for
The smelter plant became known they explained that they are going to suffer the loss of their homes, some of which have been in existence
For forty years. In addition, they fear that there will be adverse
consequences to the health of what will be left of their community as well as to the health of persons living in areas adjacent to the plant.
The group met with Makandal Daaga, NJAC’s political leader, and three other executive members; Deputy Political Leader, Nyahuma Obika;
Aiyegoro Ome, president and Anum Bankole, Vice-President.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Calls for PM Manning to come clean on Alcoa deal

By Shaliza Hassanali
Sunday Guardian
April 9, 2006

Prime Minster Patrick Manning must come clean and tell the people of T&T what arrangements have been entered into with Alcoa for the building of smelter plants in the south-western peninsula. Cedros Peninsula United (CPU), a Chatham/Cap-de-Ville-based lobby group, headed by Dr Raphael Sebastien, called on Manning on Friday to provide answers, especially to the residents of Chatham and Union Village, La Brea, on plans for the construction of two proposed aluminium smelter

The CPU's call follows a press conference by Alcoa on Wednesday, at which the company's officials sought to allay fears over environmental and health concerns, as well as discuss other issues. Randall Overbey, president of Alcoa's primary metals development, insisted spent potliners that would be generated by the operations would not be buried or disposed off in T&T. He also said it was far too early for the company to consider entering into discussions with another country, be it Brazil or the USA, about the transfer of this waste material. Nor had the technology, which he said could turn the
potliners into cement, been as yet perfected, he added.

CPU has argued that spent potliners, which contain among other elements, cyanide, would cause contamination of the Cedros coastline and surrounding areas, and result in the eventual destruction of the
Granville Reef, a sanctuary for endangered sea turtles and various species of fish.

Overbey also promised that flouride emissions from the plant would be controlled to acceptable amounts, so as not to endanger the environment. On the issue of a sweetheart gas and electricity deal from Government for its smelter operations, Overbey said:

"Let me set the record straight. Alcoa will pay for every drop of gas that we will use. I can't say how much we will pay, but it certainly won't be free." Alcoa is expected to use 100,000 metric cubic feet of gas daily, and four to six per cent of T&T's gas reserves during its 30-year-stay in T&T. In response to Alcoa's pronouncements, Sebastien said that as far as he knew, Alcoa had no permission to build any smelter plant at Chatham.

"If this is so, this information has remained top secret to citizens. It must go out in the public domain. It's time we get answers from the Government to put our minds at rest. "The PNM government invited Alcoa here. Who will bulldoze our lands and relocate our families? It won't be Alcoa. The Government will do everything. They must shoulder
the blame for what is taking place," Sebastien added. In a bid to get answers, Sebastien said CPU would hold an April 21 candlelight prayer vigil outside White Hall, during which time citizens would be able to
express their feelings.

No consultation

On Thursday, at a post-Cabinet briefing at Whitehall, Environment Minister Pennelope Beckles, announced that the National Energy Corporation (NEC) had withdrawn its application for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC), to set up an aluminium plant in Chatham. The NEC was working with Alcoa to consult with the local community.

Beckles said the NEC was entitled to apply for a CEC at another location, but had not done so yet, and that the 1998 national
environmental policy did not cater for the new energy sector projects with which the Government was now becoming involved. Beckles said the law mandated the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to take
views of the public into consideration before any CEC was granted.

Alcoa applied for the CEC in January, 2005.

Before the CEC application, Sebastien said Alcoa and the T&T Government signed a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) on May 24, 2004, which stated that Alcoa would own 60 per cent of the company and T&T 40 per cent. "We were never able to see the details contained therein," he said. He said to add insult to injury, no consultation was held with Chatham/Cap-de-Ville residents before the MOU was signed. Then shortly after, CPU discovered that the MOU was changed
to a memorandum of principle (MOP), which, also, was shrouded in mystery.

Sebastien said from information he was able to unearth about the MOP, this document gave Alcoa 100 per cent ownership in the smelter plant, with the Government being an active partner in the provision or facilitation of requisite infrastructure. Still, the terms and conditions of this agreement to build a smelter plant remained secret.
Saying Alcoa was a company that is well-placed with the US Government, the Pentagon and the White House, Sebastien charged:
"They are showing that they are even better placed with ourGovernment." He warned, however, that while certain politicians were boasting that the smelter plant would be built despite public protests, the CPU was prepared to take the Government, and Alcoa, if need be, all the way to the Privy Council "to keep our community untouched."

Cedros development plan

Last December, CPU sent a copy of its development plan for the south-western peninsula to Prime Minister Patrick Manning. They have had neither an acknowledgement that its plan was received, nor any kind of response to date. Raphael Sebastien, head of CPU, described Manning's lack of interest as an insult to the communities of the south-west peninsula. "(With) The same breath he (used to) invite Alcoa here, he could have commented on our development plan. We have repeatedly asked Manning for a face-to-face meeting so we can discuss the plan in detail. But he hasn't budged," said Sebastien.

On Monday, representatives of CPU, the Bee-Keepers Association of South Trinidad and Chatham/Cap-de-Ville Environmental ProtectionCompany meet with a Joint Select Committee meeting in Parliament
chaired by Independent Senator Mary King. Sebastien said the meeting was to present and discuss concerns about the smelter plants and to outline development plans for the area. Tomorrow, the three groups
will meet with the Opposition UNC to hold further discussions.

Tough road for Alcoa
Overbey predicts a tough road ahead for Alcoa in its bid to set up an aluminium smelter plant in the Chatham/Cap-de-Ville area. In an interview last week, Overbey said he knew the CPU, with the help of its attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, would be ready to declare war against the aluminium giant next year, when construction is planned to
begin. Alcoa wants 1,500 acres of Chatham/Cap-de-Ville lands, from
which Overbey says 500 acres will be used for the physical
infrastructure that will be the smelter plant.

Remarking that Alcoa has a lot of work ahead of them "to earn respect and win the hearts of the people," Overbey noted, however, that "legal action is not common for Alcoa." He cited as another instance of a community being against the construction of a smelter as that of Portland, Australia, but said the plant was eventually built there as
concerns were resolved through meaningful dialogue.

Overbey could not say what options were available to residents who did not support Alcoa's project and have vowed to remain on their lands in Chatham and Cap-de Ville. At Wednesday's media conference, he said relocation of the residents (he put the number at 72 families) was the responsibility of the T&T Government. At Thursday's interview he would only comment: "What I can tell you is what whoever is residing in the proposed site, we would deal with them in a dignified and respectful manner that takes into accounts their living environment."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dust-Up Swirls Around Key Jamaica Industry

By Carol J. Williams,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 14, 2004

Downs, Jamaica The old women and young mothers herding sick children gather after sunrise on the brown wooden benches just outside the clinic. At 9 a.m., still more than an hour before the doctor's arrival, health aide Vivian Harmer leads the wheezing congregation in prayer.

When the doctor finishes his four-hour visit, 40 people have traipsed through the tiny office and examination room. All have blamed the fine, gray alumina dust spewed by the Alpart refinery two miles away for their respiratory problems.

Short of breath and, increasingly, of patience, those living near Jamaica's bauxite mines and alumina plants have been brushed off by authorities as isolated complainers, their claims of ill health as nothing more than anecdotal.

But fresh evidence of a link between emissions and respiratory illness, coupled with a rising militancy among those who say the operations are poisoning their neighbors, has raised the question of what Jamaicans are willing to pay to develop their second-largest industry.

"It's not just the people who are choking to death. Look at my fruit trees! Look at my roof!" Udel Lloyd, an asthma sufferer, says, pointing to the rot and rust on her zinc-coated corrugated roof that was new four years ago. Her home flanks the railroad tracks serving Alpart. Sprinkled with the almost invisible dust from boxcars carrying the alumina to nearby Port Kaiser, Lloyd's mango and ackee trees bear misshapen black fruit.

A feisty 73-year-old, Lloyd says those living near the refinery despair of getting officials in Kingston, the capital, to deal with the problem.

"That's the Big Man over there," she says, gesturing toward Alpart. "What he want, he get. He make money for the government. Nobody in the government cares about us."

Residents of the bauxite- alumina sites, mostly in these undulating southwestern hills around Mandeville, have complained throughout the industry's half a century of operations here that their ailments stem from exposure. Health studies elsewhere have linked bauxite to hypertension and alumina dust to asthma and sinusitis. Jamaican authorities dismiss the complaints of illness.

Officials reject requests for compensation, medical treatment or corrective measures on the grounds that there is no statistical proof of causation from the processing of bauxite into alumina, the key element for making aluminum.

Complaints from thousands of Jamaicans about asthma, sinusitis and children with birth defects have prompted a militant minority to challenge what it describes as the Caribbean nation's see-no-evil policy. Angry demonstrators have clashed with police and set fire to company trucks.

"We don't think there's a connection, we know there is," says Courtney Gill, a 33-year-old former plant maintenance worker. He has twice placed his 9-year-old son, who suffers from cerebral palsy, in the path of a train to draw attention to the community's problems.

"He don't know what's going on, so he isn't scared," Gill says of the boy, also named Courtney. "I put my Bible on the tracks to mark where I would have to take him off if the train didn't stop, but it did both times."

Most of the asthmatics reject such extreme action but are angry nonetheless.

"They give people a few dollars so they'll go away and be quiet," Una Holness, a retired nurse's aide, says of the alumina plant managers. "But what is a few dollars in exchange for your health?"

Holness returned here five years ago after working two decades in New York City.

"At night, I cough until I vomit," says the 70-year-old, who says she has never smoked. "It's from the dust. I know it. Sometimes it falls so thick, it looks like snow on the veranda."

Even before community concerns escalated to public protest, the complaints of illness caught the attention of University of the West Indies medical student Patrece Charles-Freeman. After an exhaustive study of emissions and medical records within a 10-mile radius of the Halse Hall bauxite-alumina operation in neighboring Clarendon parish, Charles-Freeman this month submitted a doctoral thesis documenting dramatically elevated incidence of asthma, sinusitis and allergies among those living close to the mining and refining operations.

In her study of 2,559 people, Charles-Freeman found that 37% of adults and 21% of children living within six miles of the facility suffered sinusitis. Asthma afflicted 23% of adults and 26% of children. Allergies, likewise, were markedly more prevalent among those who lived closest to the plant than in control groups seven to 10 miles distant.

"The industry needs to investigate the negative effects and implement corrective measures," Charles-Freeman says, outlining the recommendations detailed in her thesis.

Until three years ago, the four industrial complexes guided by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute issued periodic checks to the most persistent complainers, of about $17.

Although the Health Ministry provided Charles-Freeman with equipment and staff to conduct her environmental health study, she said the institute and the industrial enterprises all part-owned by the government refused to provide her their monitoring data and at times attempted to thwart her investigations.

"Jamalco threatened to cut off water to people if they cooperated with the study," she says of the alumina producer in her study area, an enterprise owned by the Jamaican government and Alcoa.

Jamalco referred inquiries to Alcoa headquarters in Pittsburgh, where spokesman Kevin G. Lowery said no one at the Clarendon plant recalled having contact with Charles-Freeman but that some monitoring data were available in periodic reports made to the government.

Alpart spokesman Lance Neita likewise said air quality data were supplied to the Jamaica Bauxite Institute. He declined to discuss other issues.

The Health Ministry's chief medical officer, Barrington Wint, says the bauxite-alumina industry hazards have gone unstudied because of a shortage of funds and more urgent priorities.

One study underway at the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences at the University of the West Indies is measuring how deeply bauxite and other heavy metals have penetrated the food chain. The center's director, Gerald Lalor, notes that the soil around Mandeville is also replete with cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic, uranium and other elements known to pose health risks to humans.

"It's a very tricky business because there are so many variables in the picture," says Lalor, who shares Wint's view that little attention has been paid to bauxite and alumina health risks because Jamaican authorities are overwhelmed by other problems, such as high HIV/AIDS incidence and the worst murder rate in the Caribbean.

Those officially charged with ensuring that bauxite mining and alumina refining are done safely contend there is no reliable evidence that exposure to alumina dust is harmful. They attribute the claims of illness to economic motivations.

"We have long recognized that when the so-called environmental lobby came in, most of the problems had nothing to do with the environment. They are social and economic problems," said Parris Lyew-Ayee, managing director of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, responsible for keeping Jamaica competitive in the world alumina market and protecting the environment.

Jamaica is the only major bauxite source where the mines are in populated areas, Lyew-Ayee said, noting that the deposits in Australia, the biggest producer, are in the outback.(* see note below). Neither the mining of bauxite nor its processing into alumina is very labor-intensive, so the operations provide few jobs for the surrounding communities of farmers. Although the $773- million industry is Jamaica's most lucrative after tourism, fewer than 5,000 people are employed in it across the country.

Lyew-Ayee disparages Charles-Freeman's research as unreliable because it covered only a small area. He dismisses claims of roof damage from dust as the fault of inferior materials. As for crop failures and stunted fruit growth, he said species grown by the industry on reclaimed land prosper and that the problems elsewhere are "not from alumina dust any dust can cause that."

Having entered the fray amid the free-market frenzy that gripped Jamaica in the first years after its 1962 independence, bauxite's early industrial chieftains amassed power and autonomy on a par with the departed colonial masters. The first mining operations, contracted with foreign giants such as Alcoa and Kaiser of the U.S. and Alcan of Canada, required nothing in the way of post-mining reclamation. Though the institute has imposed tougher standards during the last decade, the industry remains self-regulating and driven by official edicts to keep costs down.

The Water Resources Authority oversees ground water quality and has determined that wells close to the alumina operations exceed the World Health Organization's acceptable levels for sodium by as much as 400%.

At the farm of Pauline Wellington, rainwater is collected in a cement spillway running downhill into a sunken cistern. The water picks up the alumina dust, washing it into the drinking-water system she shares with her father and six children.

"We are slowly dying inside," she says.

* MAC editorial note: In fact the Australian outback - and other bauxite mined areas such as in India - are far from being devoid of people or other life. Globally, thousands of people suffer ill health from residing close to bauxite mines and alumina refineries.

This community is requesting assistance please check out their website

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

For Samantha

After the march two Sundays ago, we retired to the now familiar undercroft at Handsome's house. As usual the Chatham generosity was in full effect. Curry duck and provision for the meat eaters and an impromptu tomato choka for me.
After the food and the lime and the jokes and the satisfied sighs we sat around enjoying the blaze of flamboyant blossoms set fire by the sunset.
And just as I was about to fall asleep on myself, Samantha took me on a tour of her back yard.
The seven year old Chatham resident has been to every meeting, every consultation. Taking in information that no seven year old should have to. Between playing and dancing she busies herself with handing out flyers.
On that Sunday evening she takes me to meet her mango trees. And the black caterpillars with the fluorescent green stripes on the frangipani tree. And the avocado tree.
And she sweeps her little arm across the expanse of land behind the only home she's known. And then she looks up at me and says "You know if the smelter comes, all of this will be gone".
And it occurs to me that this Rights Action Group mission is not about alcoa or the government or causes.
It's about the Samanthas of this world who light it up and make life a joyous undertaking. I'm not about to fail her.

Race to be No. 1 polluter (per capita)

Dr Julien Kenny
Trinidad Express
April 4, 2006

One of the problems of scientific investigation is that it may only conclude the reality of any phenomenon on the basis of probability. In some the probability edges toward certainty. But in some it hovers around a 50-50 chance. In the case of global warming and climate change it does hover backward and forward between yes it's real, and, no it's merely part of a long-term cyclical change in an interglacial period.

The problem lies partly with the comparisons between the life span of the average human being and time scales of changing global weather patterns, and the adequacy of long term data. The last glacial period ended some 11,000 years ago when much of the northern hemisphere was under one vast sheet of ice.

But the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere is well known scientifically. The higher the concentration of this gas the greater amount of heat is trapped in the atmosphere. And it is well known from ice cores in both hemispheres that the levels of carbon dioxide have been rising over the past two centuries, coincident with industrialisation and fossil fuel burning.

And now come the events. The calving of immense sheets of the Antarctic ice sheet, thinning of the polar sea ice sheets, retreat of glaciers, the melting of the snows of Kilimanjaro, sea level rise and the polar bears starving.

There are many in the scientific community who are of the view that we may have crossed the critical point of no return where the rate of heat trapping is beyond any known measure of human reduction of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The great fear is that when this point is passed there will be irreversible global warming with devastating effects.

Not that I expect to be around for the experience-it may take two or three generations-but the musings arose from two sources, the revised National Environmental Policy (NEP) and Mr Manning's prediction that by 2020 Trinidad and Tobago will have become the world's No. 1 in terms of per capita electricity consumption. Even the NEP is in on the No. 1 thing.

In its foreword, referring to the petrochemical sector, it proudly states that the country is the largest exporter of LNG to the United States of America (the largest polluter currently) and the largest exporter of ammonia. It slips the writers of the policy that the country also has the largest gas pipeline and LNG train in the western hemisphere. And I am sure that becoming the No. 1 in electricity consumption is certainly one of Mr Manning's most accurate predictions.

But look at the other side of the coin. If we generated all the electricity that we use from hydropower, solar and wind power, and oceanic currents, we would really be the No. 1 nation in the world in terms of environmental sustainability. But hold on. Most, if not all, of the electricity will come from burning natural gas and what does this produce? Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. It may be an "environmentally friendly" fuel, compared with petroleum, in that the products of combustion are carbon dioxide and water, but it nevertheless produces a greenhouse gas, tonnes and tonnes of it.

Mr Manning suggests that our production of electricity = natural gas burnt, has doubled in a few years and there is no doubt that he is absolutely correct. If one looks at the world figures for carbon dioxide emissions for Trinidad and Tobago the picture is-980 : 9.97 million metric tonnes (mmt), 1990 : 18.14 mmt, 2000 27.38 mmt. The most recent figure available from the source consulted is 2003 some 32.39 mmt.

In other words we have tripled our carbon dioxide emissions in a mere 23 years. On a per capita basis we will certainly become, as Mr Manning has predicted, No. I in electricity generation, and, No. 1 in carbon dioxide production. We will therefore lead the world in per capita contributions to global warming, if it exists.

Curiously, the system of accounting for carbon dioxide emissions assigns the figures to the source of production. Thus any LNG exported and burnt to keep the world's No. 1 polluter is actually accounted as T&T production. The natural gas actually burnt in T&T to generate electricity is also part of the national figure for emissions. So that assuming that the current figure is in the order of say 40 mmt, this will work out at about 30 metric tonnes per citizen! Per capita we were supposed to be either No. 3 or No. 5 just two years ago. Just think, No. 1 in the world!

Forty years ago the North Sea gas came in to the British homes and everyone converted their heating and cooking. Today the source is depleted to the point where Britain is importing energy from Russia! I guess we'll import from Chavez.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

As the saying goes ...

Vox Populi Vox Dei
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One of the many placards nailed to telephone posts in the Southern Peninsula

Union Village says no to aluminum smelter

Q&A with BC Pires
Sunday Express
April 2, 2006

Elijah Gour, Chair of the Union Village Council, spoke about his community's concerns over the proposed aluminum smelters and their effects on the southwestern peninsula.

Q: Do you want a smelter?

A: The people of Union Village definitely do not want a smelter. After getting information off the Internet and being educated from individuals inclined in that area, we feel confident the aluminum smelter is a hazard to the environs and people.

Is there a difference between the proposed Alcoa and Alutrint smelters?

In terms of the effect, no. The end result would be the same. There is a difference in the administration. Alcoa is American-owned whereas Alutrint would be part government-owned [so] the government would have a greater say into that one.

Alutrint would also permit downstream value-added industries; surely that would benefit Trinidad & Tobago?

Yes, it will be a benefit but one has to study the effects it will have on the people and environment. I always say industries are good but you need to differentiate between those that are environmentally acceptable and those that are not.

You are a trade unionist?

No, I'm not; however I am a trade union member.

There are people who would say, "This is a trade unionist holding up economic progress"?

I think the trade union is not standing in the way of progress, only justifying the cause of the people and ensuring the wealth of the country is used in an efficient manner.

What did the proposed site land look like before it was cleared?

It was secondary forest, greenery with dams, a lot of wild animals, pastures where people had cattle, gardens. People used to go for evening strolls, it was very quiet and calm. All the things one would think of that you would be living to enjoy. The forest was part of the community. We had hunters, gardeners there. People used to use the dam to water their plants, to go swimming. In the dry season, it would be used to have a bath, wash clothes. Now it's like a desert.

With the high winds these days, imagine almost a thousand hectares of bare land, heavy with dust. You could imagine the problems residents are having.

How big was this dam?

It was three dams they covered, eh, not one. They were drained at night and we believe that they were done in that way because they were not keeping up with environmental standards. They were quite big, stretching for a few hectares-well. If you understand the contour of the land, they were catchment areas used by the predecessor, Texaco, to facilitate water to their industrial sites.

We did a lot of fishing there. There were a lot of caimans. It also watered the animals that lived in the area. Those dams were back- filled in the process of levelling to get the contour they probably were looking for to suit the industries. They were all drained into the Vessigny sea illegally and not coherent with environmental standards, in that they were drained at night and there were no proper silt traps [for] the debris that would be coming down with the slush and mud. We asked the reason for draining the dam and they told us the water was contaminated. Give them the benefit of the doubt and say, okay, it was contaminated.

We thought it was interesting that they drained a contaminated dam into the Vessigny River, contaminated the river, and then the river flowed to the Vessigny sea, a tourist resort, to contaminate that. We find that somewhat conflicting.

As the project continues, we've been seeing constant breaches within the areas laid out by the EMA: they brought in truckloads of tyres and put them alight in bamboo patches. They grade down all the buffer zone that was supposed to be between the clearing and the villagers so the effects we're having now would have been somewhat shaded. Things like that, they keep doing.

Were you made aware beforehand?

No one informed us. Villagers were at a disadvantage. People had to get their cattles out in a haste, call in the butchers, who saw it as an opportunity to exploit people, so villagers had to sell out their animals at very low cost. Some had vegetables in their gardens and were not able to go and reap them.

Was there damage to wildlife?

It was beyond damage! Imagine you have tractors, excavators at various points all working into the centre and you have sensitive animals like porcupines and anteaters. You also have the monkeys that were slaughtered. Tractors keep pushing the trees-the hunting season was closed, to facilitate the animals to breed-and monkeys, heavy with young, were falling out of trees. You had workmen clobbering them to death.

It was devastating to them. Animals running all on the road and in people' backyards. You could say they massacred these animals. All who had young, who were about to make young. What were not killed by the falling trees were utilised by the workers. What thought they might escape were chased and killed. Clobbered with wood, cutlasses, pieces of iron, whatever the workmen could put their hands on.

What other impact have the proposed smelters had?

Apart from the physical impact, in terms of the gardens and all that, it's a big psychological impact. Here it is people are accustomed to one way of life, having their gardens, having space, freedom. We are now threatened with relocation. We have been told we are squatters on land where we have been living for 100 years. I have been living there 45 years, my parents have been living there over 60 years. The compensation packages are very poor. The younger children are asking, "What is going to happen to us?

Where are we going to live?" The security we had before, a united village where everybody looks after one another-is that going to be split up? Are we going to go to an area prone to banditry? We've been invited to meetings and when we reach, we're told they are cancelled. They say one thing in one meeting, another in another. We go to a meeting with one party present and agree on something; go to a next meeting, another party is present and they do not agree. The parties who are responsible are fighting amongst themselves.

People like Alcoa, the government, business interests might say you all are holding back progress?

They don't have all the facts. They are only looking at one thing: it's income and industries. But in every industry, you need planning.

The residents are being affected and we have decided that, if we are not going to be treated in a fair and just manner, we have no choice but to demand it. We are prepared to take whatever action is necessary. We are a small community. We have started gathering money by fund-raising ventures. We have asked the general public who are interested to assist. We have a bank account

Would you oppose a smelter if it were located somewhere else in Trinidad?

I would oppose a smelter built anywhere else in the world.

Alcoa is saying this publicity is unfair because, when finished, their smelter-in-the-park will actually be environmentally friendly?

One thing Alcoa has to do is, tell us what they are going to do with the waste. If they can't tell us that, we can't start believing them.

Right now, smelter in a park, that is only hearsay.

Is the whole of your community opposed to the smelters?

In the public consultation, more than 95 per cent; in speaking to people, almost everybody. A Vessigny village councillor told me that, though they were laid back before, they are very soon going to be having action up there as well. One can say the whole area is being affected and will give their voice.

The area earmarked for the smelter is east of the Union and Vessigny villages. The predominant winds would take the emissions across the village, just a few hundred metres away, so they would definitely get the full blast.

What happens if we do have a public discourse and the people of Trinidad & Tobago are in favour of the smelters?

Well, we have a democratic country and the majority stands to overrule. My honest opinion is, if people are educated about the smelter, we would not have a problem. The majority would definitely be against the smelter.

The Prime Minister has promised the smelter will be built no matter what?

He did promise that. But we were also promised that the lands would be cleared with all the environmental standards met and they weren't.

So that leads us to wonder if what the PM says will actually be true.

Photos by Elspeth Duncan

Fluoride Poisoning in Trinidad

by Darlene Sherrell
St. George's, Grenada
June, 1995

This article was written in June of 1995, aboard the yacht Seafever. The story is about what happened to me in Trinidad, with an unexpected exposure to fluoride in the air. It is just one of several instances when fluoride in the air, food, or beverages has caused a sudden onset of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, severe headache, gastrointestinal problems, and other symptoms of fluoride poisoning.

In the Caribbean Islands nicknames take on a special meaning, describing physical features, voices, habits, or even relationships. Very often, finding someone requires knowledge of that special name. Asking for John Smith may produce a blank stare, while asking for Tall Boy brings a smile and the needed directions. For an outsider, being given a name is a sign of acceptance - even though you might get stuck with one like Ugly, Big Foot, or Nose.

Mine is Grandma D ... picked up in the mid 1980s while living in Grand Cayman. I like my island name - really like being "older" because for most of the first half of my life, pain was an everyday thing, and during the second half the pain was gone. I felt younger every year - until Trinidad, and Alcoa. We sailed to Trinidad late in October of 1994, after sixteen months in a remote area off the south coast of Grenada. The journey of about eighty miles was pleasantly uneventful. In luck somehow, we arrived in time to ride the shifting currents through the Boca de Monos, check in with Customs and Immigration, and dinghy over to the Lifeline Bar for a cold drink.

Our little 36' sailboat needed to come out of the water to have her bottom cleaned and re-painted I needed clothing and galley equipment. We planned to install the anchor windlass and new wind generator, have a large canopy made, do a few minor repairs here and there. There were lists and plans galore; and like children yearning to spend our allowance, we set out to explore.

The yachting facilities are located in Chaguaramas, a beautiful unspoiled area with easy access to modern shopping malls, dozens of inexpensive restaurants, well kept parks, and an infinite variety of department and specialty stores in Port of Spain, about twenty minutes away by route taxi. After more than three years living at anchor in less-modern surroundings, this was another world, another century. There were people of every race, color, creed, and national origin; a friendly hospitable group the likes of which we had never seen.

From our pleasant well-protected bay we could see several small islands nearby, the mountain peaks of Venezuela to the west, the hills and mountains of Trinidad to our north and east. Yet, within easy reach were the advantages of a modern Miami or Honolulu. Multi-lane highways took the place of narrow unpaved roads - and nary a goat or chicken to slow the pace.

It looked as though we had found the perfect place at last.

Three nights later I awoke with a pounding headache ... the kind that won't respond to aspirin. By the end of the week my hands were stiff and sore, my legs beginning to ache.

As a child I had suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple allergies and chemical sensitivities, asthma, and three episodes of life-threatening anaphylactic shock. I was all too familiar with the signs. However, all that was a thing of the distant past. My supposedly incurable ailments of almost twenty years duration had disappeared with changes in my diet and a careful avoidance of fluoride. Other than a few occasions when my own carelessness brought on a minor flare-up in my hands or legs, I had enjoyed more than twenty-five years of excellent health with not a penny spent at a doctor's office or pharmacy.

After the usual office-bound occupations (typesetter, bookkeeper, judicial assistant, research associate) I had decided at the age of 41 to learn to drive an eighteen wheeler and get paid to see the country. The law specifies that one cannot qualify to drive if the pre-employment physical reveals any sign of arthritis; yet over and over, I had no trouble. By driving coast to coast just a few weeks each year I could finance travel by air to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, where I could live on just a few dollars a day.

For six years I traveled, living outdoors most of the time, sleeping in a rain and mosquito-proof hammock, making whole grain breads and cooking fresh vegetables on an open fire or kerosene stove. I became accustomed to using a machete; walking and swimming distances measured in miles, not yards; and could carry everything I owned in a back pack. I was an International Bag Lady ... and loved it! When my purse grew light I simply found another job.

During a visit to my elder daughter's home in Florida in 1988 I met Douglas. A native of Jamaica, he had been living in the States for more than forty years; but dreamed of selling everything, buying a boat, and sailing down the island chain through the Caribbean. Although neither of us had been sailors, and he a little more than nine years my senior, we both felt up to the challenge and began to move in that direction.

We left the Florida shore in September of 1991, stopping awhile in the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the U. S. and British Virgin islands, St. Lucia, Dominica; arriving just ahead of the hurricane season in beautiful Grenada, the Spice island, where we seemed to really settle in. Douglas was Captain, of course, and in charge of the engine and important electrical systems. I was navigator, cook, laundress. The rest, we shared. We also had a Chief of Security in our little mix-breed dog named Sam.

As I said earlier, for a very long time I had been disgustingly healthy. But after just a few weeks in Trinidad my hands were often too sore and weak to tear a piece of toilet tissue. I couldn't hold a pen, and could barely dress myself. What began as a numbness and tingling in my left arm became the most excruciating pain in my experience - and lasted more than three months.

My right thumb would snap or click rather than bend, and lock into position. My neck, also painfully stiff, made crackling grating crunching sounds whenever I tried to move my head. The muscles in my back were far too tight to allow a twisting or stretching motion. And, worst of all, my left shoulder and arm felt like fine wires with hooks were being dragged through the flesh along with an electrical current - at times like a fire hose in intensity, and at others, a trickling forest stream ... but always there, always painful. It was almost impossible to reach forward with either arm. I found it necessary to keep my left elbow against my waist and my hand tied or held up towards the opposite shoulder.

Traveling in a car or bus - even on good roads - was a nightmare, as each tiny movement set the muscles of my neck to cramping. There were many times when even the slightest exertion had me gasping for breath. There were sharp pains in my chest, a lump in my throat, and a frequent sensation of heartburn. Sinus congestion and headaches became common again. Diarrhea and constipation alternated for no apparent reason. A persistent dry cough seemed to originate deep in my chest; and my legs and arms had not just an occasional Charley Horse, but a whole herd in residence. My right knee refused to bend properly. Sleep never came for more than an hour or two before the pain in my big toe, hand, or head broke into consciousness.

Eventually, after six weeks that seemed an eternity, the boat was back in the water and we were able to leave. Douglas did all the work while I propped myself in the cockpit or down below. Fortunately, very light wind and sea conditions allowed us to motor-sail to Tobago, where we anchored at Pigeon Point and I prayed for a speedy recovery.

In January I celebrated my 54th birthday feeling old and broken and twice my age. But, by the second week in February my arm was fine and the rest of my complaints were fading away. Slowly but surely I was becoming myself again.

On April 6 we set sail for Grenada and settled in the lagoon in St. George's - the prettiest little port town I have ever seen. Once again I walk two or three miles each day, climb stairs and hills, do all of our laundry by hand, sew, and even carve designs in small calabash as a hobby ... all without trouble or pain.

One day, while we were still in Trinidad I decided to brave the trip to town to find a few items on my list. By then my left arm was useless and I yearned for one of those wide bulky collars people wear after a whiplash injury; but I was determined.

On the return the route taxi turned off the main road up into the hills of the Carenage area about two and a half miles east of our anchorage. We stopped near a building with a sign painted on its side - a notice of a meeting held the month before - for all those involved in the "Alcoa Dust Case." Suddenly everything made sense. As in the comic strips, the little light bulb clicked on for me ... Alcoa ... dust ... fluoride. We were anchored down wind from Alcoa's bauxite transfer station at the bottom of the hill. I hadn't known.

A few days later I met Rose Pyle, a member of the group involved in the lawsuit against Alcoa. She invited me into her home, complaining about dust everywhere - inside kitchen cupboards, on every surface. Wiping a finger here and there, she showed me the result. "We had to put in air conditioning," she said, "we have to keep everything closed, but the dust comes in anyway." She told me about the constant pain in her neck and shoulders, the headaches and muscle spasms. We were mirror images in pain. When I asked what specific chemical she thought might be causing her trouble she said, without hesitation, "aluminum."

Rose went on to explain that not everyone in her tiny neighborhood was involved - just a little over half of them. The trouble, she said, was that they couldn't find scientific proof to show that aluminum could be causing their problems. "No wonder," I said, "you're barking up the wrong tree!"

Trinidad has her environmental problems, but most of her industry is located near the southwest corner of the island. Constant trade winds carry the air pollution offshore to the west. We were on the northwest corner of the island, not downwind. The water is not fluoridated. However, the fine particles of bauxite dust could easily contain enough fluoride to cause a problem.

I explained to Rose that the easiest way to establish the degree of their exposure to fluoride would be analyses of urine samples. The connection to arthritic complaints had already been established - as in crippling skeletal fluorosis.

She was amazed when I showed her the lists of fluoride poisoning symptoms - lists and descriptions published recently by the U.S. Public Health Service, the World Health Organization, National Academy of Sciences, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

In each of these, crippling skeletal fluorosis is described as a progressive disease which develops as fluoride accumulates in both the skeletal and soft tissues of the body ... a process which usually requires years rather than days.

It appears, however, that some of us react more quickly than others, more violently. Fluoride causes an alteration in the structure of proteins, which the body's immune system recognizes as something not itself - a foreign object. The resulting antibodies and immune complexes cause connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Hundreds of Safety Studies?

Although X-rays have been the traditional method used in fluoridation safety studies, diagnosis of chronic fluoride poisoning cannot be made by X-ray alone.

In 1953, Frada and Mentesana reported a high incidence of gastro-intestinal symptoms - gastric pain, bloating in the abdomen and diarrhea alternating with constipation. Skeletal changes demonstrable by X-ray were noted in only 45 percent of their cases with advanced fluorosis. ("Some Observations on Chronic Fluorosis," Boll. d. I. Soc. Ital. Biol. Sper. 29:750-53, April 1953.)

Roholm had noted these non-skeletal symptoms in 1935, along with a feeling of stiffness, indefinite or localized rheumatic pains, tiredness, and headache. However, the literature on intoxication from drinking natural fluoride water, ranging in concentrations from two to sixteen parts per million, concerns itself mostly with bones and teeth. Relatively little attention has been given to symptoms attributable to damage to other organs.

In 1955 Waldbott reported a case involving severe backache in the lower spine, severe abdominal pain with pain and numbness in arms and legs and partial palsy in arms. X-ray studies were entirely negative in this patient whose symptoms disappeared with avoidance of fluoride. ("Chronic Fluorine Intoxication from Drinking Water at the One Part per Million Concentration. A Case Report," Int. Arch. of Allergy and Applied Immunology 7:70-74, 1955.)

Other similar case reports by Waldbott mention "rheumatism" which disappears when distilled water is used for drinking and cooking. Symptom descriptions include "a peculiar gnawing sensation in the stomach after eating, as though there was something burning inside ... increasing stiffness and pain in the spine ... hands begin to tingle ... severe muscular pains in arms and legs ... throat, eyes and nose became extremely dry ... more or less continuous ache in the lumbosacral region and between the shoulder blades ... tenderness practically everywhere."

The following is a typical comment by Waldbott, "This patient remained completely well upon drinking and cooking with distilled water. In August 1955 she was obliged to use city water again. Within one day, her muscle pains and intestinal symptoms returned."

Waldbott noted, "Tolerance to fluorides varies considerably among individuals. No estimate of the incidence of this disease can be made at this time." (The American Fluoridation Experiment, by F.B. Exner, M.D., and G.L. Waldbott, M.D., Devin-Adair Company, New York, 1961).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Manning Making Excuses

Chatham residents on smelter plant construction:
Carolyn Kissoon

Trinidad Express
April 1 2006

CHATHAM residents, protesting the construction of an aluminium smelter plant in their community, have lashed out at Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who has accused them of having other motives.

Fritzroy Beache, president of the Chatham/ Cap-de-Ville Environment Protection Group, yesterday insisted that during a massive protest last weekend, they had only one concern-the construction of an aluminium smelter plant in their community.

"The Prime Minister is trying to make excuses now. All we want is for them to stop these plans to construct a smelter plant in our homes. We don't want the jungle to be destroyed. We don't have any other motive," he said.

During the sod-turning ceremony for the construction of PowerGen's new power project at Point Lisas on Wednesday, Manning said plans to construct several industrial plants along the south-western peninsula would continue despite objections from residents and environmental organisation.

"Many of the lips that are speaking on this matter are by no means speaking from knowledge," he said.

Beache called on Manning to visit Chatham and discuss with residents their concerns over the construction of the plant.

"We don't see the Prime Minister or any other Minister here unless it's during election time," he said.

He claimed that representatives of Alcoa, the international company responsible for the construction of the plant, had never asked residents how they felt about the new developments.

Beache added that residents of Chatham were used to working on agricultural fields.

"We don't want temporary work in construction. We are used to agriculture, what we needed was for the Minister of Agriculture to come to Chatham and teach us about working the fields," he said.

Manning also questioned why people living in La Brea were not against the construction of a plant in their village.

"Notice that we do not have those objections over the smelter in La Brea... it tells you a story," he said.

Beache responded that La Brea residents were also against the industrialisation of their homes, but were too afraid to take action against Government.

"La Brea residents do not want the plants as well, but they are too frightened to protest. But I am taking this protest to La Brea. Let me hear what the Prime Minister would say then," he said.

Beach added that many people living on the proposed land for construction at La Brea were not landowners. "These people are living on State land. That is why they are not protesting-they do not have a choice."

Cedros Peninsula United responds to Wade Hughes

April 1, 2006

Mr. Hughes’ editorial letter of Friday, March 31st entitled “Full information flow from Alcoa” is an attempt to portray Alcoa as a reasonable, beneficent and concerned multi-national company. Such a portrayal, in the eyes of Cedrosians, is both presumptuous and premature. The issues which we have raised and those which we still have to raise, in our estimation, can best be aired in a public debate with adequate media coverage. We have, time and again, intimated this to the Alcoa team. Cedros Peninsula United and the other affiliated groups have taken this as a policy decision. We want the nation to hear what we are saying and what we are being told. We do not think that we have anything to hide. This is merely a prudent safeguard which will prevent our utterances from being manipulated on Alcoa’s website. This is a reasonable position.
Such a public debate could clear the air on some matters in which the full information flow has been obstructed, viz
(1) the price at which natural gas will be supplied;
(2) a clear unequivocal answer on the disposal of spent pot linings;
(3) why should such a caring company like Alcoa build its aluminum smelter on top of an aquifer which supplies drinking water to thousands of residents in the southern peninsula,
(4) how does one justify building one of the larges smelters in the world in a country with a population of about 213 persons per sq mile,
(5) how, in good conscience (if it exists), can a company choose what is probably the healthiest environment in a polluted island to pollute it with a constant flow of harmful emissions,
(6) why would you expect us to believe that a company which has been charged for very many environmental violations overseas would suddenly become ‘green’ in our context?
(7) Why do you continue to accuse us of using ‘old’ information when we are in possession of the latest information available?
These are a few of the issues we would like to have cleared in a public setting.
N.B. we are correcting a bit of wrong information at the same time. The Alcoa site does not require the removal of churches and places of worship. The proposed Chatham Industrial Estate, sneaked in on us by the N.E.C. on the other side of the main road, is the culprit in this regard. We are against the smelter but we cannot make you bear the blame for the wrong doing of others.

Fr. Wilfred John
Cedros Peninsula United