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UWI to help establish National Hazardous Materials and Waste Inventory

The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) has provided just over J$5 million to the Chemistry Department, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, University of the West Indies (UWI) to lead a 15 month project to develop a hazardous waste inventory for Jamaica and to assess policy options for the management of hazardous waste in the island, or develop such policy options where necessary. The UWI is contributing J$250,000 to the project. Other participants in the project include the International Centre for Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) at UWI, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Ministry of Land and Environment, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, the Jamaica Employers Federation and the Jamaica Manufacturers Association.

Hazardous waste includes toxic agents such as heavy metals like lead, various forms of asbestos, polychlorinated byphenyl (PCB), pesticides, herbicides, persistent organic pollutants and medical waste. Head of the Chemistry Department and Professor of Supramolecular Chemistry, Ishenkumba Kahwa notes that the relative amounts of each type of hazardous waste, their condition and locations in Jamaica are not known. He explains that there is also a need to clearly identify the conditions of such waste where they exist, who is at risk of exposure to these materials, suitable handling and disposal procedures, and available disposal options.

The project team, which includes an Assistant Research Fellow and a Senior Scientific Officer, is to be hosted by the Chemistry Department and led by Professor Kahwa. In the project proposal Professor Kahwa outlined the overall goal of the project as “to develop a comprehensive understanding of the hazardous waste situation in Jamaica and to assess the suitability of mitigating policy options for eliminating negative public and environmental health impacts of the waste.” The project will specifically address issues concerning the generation, use, disposal and transportation of hazardous waste in the island.

The project team will be gathering information from various organisations in the course of its work including the Customs Department, the Ministry of Health and the Trade Board, which are directly responsible for approving importation and entry of hazardous materials into Jamaica.

The team will also access information from other organisations and companies to identify hazardous materials that they use and will search international databases via the Internet to develop a list of potentially hazardous materials. The list will form a basis for comparison with the list of materials approved for importation into Jamaica by these government agencies. This will allow the researchers to identify the nature, quantity and uses of imported hazardous materials; identify the importing organisation and hopefully learn the fate of the potentially hazardous waste which resulted from the use of these imported materials. The intention is to trace the disposal procedures now in practice.

The project is regarded as timely as a number of international regulatory agreements such as the Basel and Rotterdam Conventions continue to focus attention on the issue of the generation, handling, transportation and disposal of hazardous waste. In the Caribbean and Jamaica, this problem is poorly understood and regulated and there are no enforced regulations for the handling and disposal of hazardous waste.

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