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BEST: Yard blaze highlights health risks

Environmentalists claim a recent fire at a yard in Warwick has highlighted health risks allegedly faced by residents living near the industrial site.

Stuart Hayward, from Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), said the blaze at Dynamic Excavating on Quarry Hill Road on May 20 raised fresh concerns about the activities taking place there.

“BEST continues to have concerns where industrial activity is taking place in residential areas. A recent explosion and fire in a building in a Warwick neighbourhood highlights issues that go beyond this particular incident,” Mr Best said.

“As we understand it, these residents have lived for decades with various risks from the industrial activity carried out on the site between Coral Hill and Quarry Lane. This activity includes: the stockpiling and sifting of soil or construction material, often mixed with manure from the horses which are also kept on-site, which is then routinely picked up by the wind and deposited on neighbouring roofs from where it is washed into their water storage tanks; having to tolerate the fumes and noise from the heavy trucks and other equipment which regularly move through the area; and the threat from the storage of gas tanks on-site.”

Yard owner Eddie Roque told this newspaper that nothing took place at the site which wasn't allowed. He said: “If Mr Hayward wants to make a comment, by all means let him. He can check with his people at Environmental Protection and ask if I don't respond and do whatever they ask, because I do.” He added that he had no further comment.

Six fire trucks and 35 firefighters responded to the May 20 blaze at Mr Roque's property, which includes a stable block, and it was later reported that the damage caused could cost $80,000 to repair.

A source who asked not to be named said the cause was likely to have been a spark left on a rag after some welding work was carried out in the yard's garage. An explosion heard by neighbours, according to the source, was a bottle of inert gas blowing up about 15 minutes after the fire started.

“No matter what was the cause of the explosion in the Cobbs Hill neighbourhood, the fundamental issue is that it may be becoming impossible for residential areas and industrial areas to coexist,” Mr Hayward said.

“More and more, industrial activities will need to be moved to, or permitted only in, designated industrial zones. It is inevitable that conflicts will escalate between industrial-type activities, [such as] quarrying, incineration, spray painting, materials stockpiling, equipment storage and repair, and legitimate residential expectations for healthy surroundings undisturbed by machinery and attendant noise, vibration and fumes.”

The BEST founder said Bermuda was already the most densely populated oceanic island on the planet and demands for space were rising at the same time that available space was diminishing.

“Despite the temporary decline in population, linked to the economic recession, construction of new residences continues,” he said. “Every space in our small Island that gets developed results in less space remaining where development is possible.

“As housing development, often speculative, continues relentlessly on our Island, there will be increasing instances where industrial activity — that may have once been limited and tolerable — is becoming intrusive and, as in this case, hazardous to human health.

“And in the same way that more traffic inevitably leads to more traffic controls, more development on our finite Island will need to lead to more regulations and controls.

“Developers should not be surprised that applications for development will become more complex and take longer, or that members of the public will take greater interest in development slated for their surroundings and become more involved.

“Just how land use conflicts are going to be forecast and managed going forward are macro issues that our policymakers will need to give urgent attention.”

The Roque family has operated an industrial site on Quarry Hill for decades and Dynamic Excavating is allowed to sift aggregate, according to the source, so long as the wind is below ten knots.

Neighbours have previously complained about sand and dust from the yard getting into their water supply and requiring constant roof cleaning.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environmental Protection confirmed last night that a complaint concerning Mr Roque's property had been received and an investigation launched into allegations that the site was hazardous to human health. The spokeswoman added today: “It is still ongoing.”

Firefighters are battling a blaze at a construction yard on Quarry Hill Road in Warwick following reports of an explosion in the area. Three fire engines are at the scene and firefighters are hosing down the flames at the property þÄî which includes a stable block . ¬ Photo Akil Simmons

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Published June 10, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 10, 2014 at 11:28 am)

BEST: Yard blaze highlights health risks

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